The Abomination of Desolation Seated in the High Place

One of the reasons why I failed to make an extended post on John Paul the Second, but not Great – are the people who want to call him that going to call JP1 John Paul the Less, which would be logical, but tough on someone who appears to have died mysteriously after asking to go over the Church’s accounts? And is therefore perhaps a martyr to the virtue of financial probity? But I digress as I so often do – is that I suspected that in due course I would need to post extensively on his successor.

There is a sense in which I am more glad than otherwise that they went with Ratzinger, because it means one can attack Roman Catholic obscurantism without being accused of racism, as would have happened if it had been the Nigerian guy, with Ratzinger advising him. On the other hand, I am truely appalled by the sycophancy with which the world’s media, and most of the other churches, are treating the accession of this appalling man.

Let us start with the business of his membership of the Hitler Youth. Apologists are rightly saying that membership was compulsory at the time and to have refused would have been to condemn himself at thirteen to serious consequences. No-one can retrospectively ask that of a person, his apologists say.

And the simple answer is, of course not. And the more complicated answer is that, when you let someone off the hook like this, you have to ask certain other questions about what that implies. Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict, is a man with a lot of intransigent positions about faith and morals which he believes to be absolute and non-negotiable truths. Many of those positions have real world consequences which condemn a lot of thirteen-year-olds male and female to various sorts of misery and death. If, say, the use of condoms or the absolute wrongness of homosexuality or quietism in the face of oppressive fascist regimes, rather than forming political alliances with Communists, are non-negotiable positions, then so is giving passive consent to the rule of the Nazi party at a point when it was engaged in the Holocaust. As he is so fond of pointing out to the rest of us, we cannot pick and choose and the duty to bear witness to absolute truth is incumbent on all of us at all times.

I am similarly shocked by the way that people insist on giving respect to his intellectual positions. You may not agree, the line goes, but you have to admire his rigour.

No, you don’t.

For several reasons.

One of these is that his central claim is that we are faced with the dictatorship of relativism, that it is important to testify to absolute truth, of which he is in sole possession. I am not a great believer in absolute truth, or rather, in anyone’s possession of it, but one thing I do know, and that is that he is wrong.

The central doctrine of the gospels is, very precisely, that our duty is to love God, and to love our neighbour as ourself. I am not convinced about the first part, but one of the principal merits of Christianity has always been that it tried, inchoately, to do the latter. A man who does not apply to his own past the rigour he applies to everyone else is in no position to claim absolute insight into how to love one’s neighbour as oneself. ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’ is one of the bits of Christianity that still means something important to me.

Benedict has always held that the prestige of the Church as guardian of the truth is more important than any good which might be done in the short term by backing down on a particular position on which it might be wrong, not that, in his eyes, it is. The logic of this position, of course, is that the Church should never have backed down on the structure of the Universe, or the claim to temporal sovereignty, including the right to impose the death penalty – not you understand because any of these things are necessarily right and true, but because the Church’s ability to do good depends on its being seen as unchanging.

This is not brilliant rigour; it is the higher absurdity.

There are important areas in which the Church has had to accept it was wrong, and there are other areas in which it may yet do so. Or rather, find a way of spinning retreat so that it can go on pretending to being unchanging. And questions like clerical celibacy and women priests and the absolute wrongness of homosexuality and contraception are clearly among those areas.

A lot of Benedict’s absolute positions depend on Aquinas’ statements about natural law, and Aquinas’ positions derive in large part from Aristotle, who backed up his description of the moral universe we inhabit with examples from the actual material world which were based on false interpretations of evidence. If, for example, Aristotle is incorrect, as he is, about the fundamentals of human biology, then the analogies he draws from those fundamentals to construct a moral universe are no longer privileged with authority. If Aquinas uses Aristotle, both on ‘scientific truth’ and the construction of theology by analogy with it, and the assumption that ‘as above so below’, that truth is of a piece and internally recursive and self-reinforcing, falls along with it.

Which is part of the reason why the Renaissance church, and the Lutherans as well, were so very worried by Copernicus’ demolition of the Ptolemaic universe. They felt the ground shifting under their intellectual constructs, but went on claiming that some aspects of them could be retained.

If there are moral absolutes, they depend on very simple principles of loving-kindness, not on elaborate systems of doctrine about the implicit order of the universe. We find meaning by constructing it from decent behaviour to other people, because the universe is vast and random in its nature, and it does not care about us. Or, if you are a believer in God, God gave us each other as we are as a way of constructing our moral absolutes, and set us adrift and cold in a world in which there is only ourselves, and perhaps Him, to care.

Various Christians of other denominations are keen to suck up to Benedict and praise him and hope that dialogue will continue. It is clearly the case, as it basically was with JP2, that he does not believe for a second that any branch of Christianity is in possession of any degree of truth save in the extent to which they are prepared to accede to Rome and seek reintegration with it on its terms. The belief that Benedict is interested in anything we might call ecumenism is a delusion.

To a greater degree, any belief that he has any respect for the intellectual probity of non-Christian believers, or secular humanists, is a delusion. There is little point in dialogue save by making clear our absolute rejection of much of what he stands for. It will be kinder in the end.

The Church does, and will go on doing, much good in the world, and much harm. We must be very clear about which is which, and not shilly-shally about pointing out both the objective good and harm and the intellectual nonsense and folly which underlie much of the latter.

Benedict claims, for example, that clerical celibacy was always in force, from the earliest days. This is, for what it is worth, fairly clearly untrue; it was an option which some felt drawn to and inspired by. Other Christian churches look at the evidence of the early years and draw very different conclusions, either rejecting the notion of compulsory celibacy altogether, or restricting it to the higher offices.

By establishing it as compulsory in the Middle Ages, and as a high ideal to fall away from which was to sin deeply, the Roman Catholic Church created many of its own current problems. Once a priest has realized that he is a sexual being, and incapable of adhering to the demands made of him by the Church, there is a serious risk of his drifting not only to despair, but to the belief that he might as well sin deeply as at all. The epidemic of sexual abuse of children is a consequence in part of the absolute demand for celibacy.

One of the first acts of Benedict’s papacy is going to have to be to argue that, as a head of state, he does not have to obey the subpoena to appear before an American court to explain the Church’s protection of various abusers.

I find this amusing, in a sardonic way, but I wonder how he spins it to himself in terms of an aboslute morality.

In a sense I welcome his accession to the papacy, because it makes it far easier to hope that the Catholic church as we have known it will dissolve in schism and rancour. Some prophesies regard him as the Pope of the End Days; let us hope that they are wrong and that he is merely the last.

About rozkaveney

Middleaged, trans, novelist, poet, activist
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

68 Responses to The Abomination of Desolation Seated in the High Place

  1. stellanova says:

    Well said, as ever.
    And the idea so often trumpted by Catholic hyper-conservatives like Ratzinger that the rules of the Churhc are unchanging and absolute sends me into a frenzy purely because, as you say, it’s just not true. The Church has always changed, and nothing is written in stone. It’s just easier for the likes of Ratzinger to not engage with any arguments by saying “well, it’s always been like this and there’s nothing we can do about it”.

  2. stellanova says:

    Well said, as ever.

    And the idea so often trumpted by Catholic hyper-conservatives like Ratzinger that the rules of the Churhc are unchanging and absolute sends me into a frenzy purely because, as you say, it’s just not true. The Church has always changed, and nothing is written in stone. It’s just easier for the likes of Ratzinger to not engage with any arguments by saying “well, it’s always been like this and there’s nothing we can do about it”.

  3. buddleia says:

    Beautifully put, of course.
    I like what you say about the application of rigour to doctrine. My problem with religion is always the basic impossibility of reconciliation. Those people I love who have or have had faith have often told me that they don’t look for rigour. That I am wrong for trying to apply it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hi Roz
    That’s telling them. But I like it when they call themselves daft names – Benedict always reminds me of Nine Princes in Amber. Boniface would be even better, but I think he was a Borgia, so perhaps not. Leo’s good too, but maybe a bit diCaprio. Hygenus (sp?) is probably the best, and the whole thing is being marketed like soap powder, so why not?
    Phil Palmer

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hi Roz

    That’s telling them. But I like it when they call themselves daft names – Benedict always reminds me of Nine Princes in Amber. Boniface would be even better, but I think he was a Borgia, so perhaps not. Leo’s good too, but maybe a bit diCaprio. Hygenus (sp?) is probably the best, and the whole thing is being marketed like soap powder, so why not?

    Phil Palmer

  6. ratphooey says:

    Beautifully written. Thank you so much for articulating what I’ve been to furious to address.

  7. gehayi says:

    The icon expresses exactly how I feel about this old twit.
    I heard those same damned prophecies about JP II, because JP I died so suddenly after his ascension, and dozens of idiots decided that meant that JP II absolutely HAD to be the evil pope.
    I have a problem with thinking of him as “Benedict.” He’s not a speaker of blessedness, and in any case, I’m from Connecticut, which is the home state of arch-traitor Benedict Arnold, so that causes its own problems.
    I think I’ll just call him Ratboy. It suits him. Of course, it’s rather insulting to rats, which are intelligent and adaptable creatures, but you can’t have everything.
    And he’s old. Maybe he’ll just drop dead soon. We can keep a good thought, at least.

  8. gehayi says:

    The icon expresses exactly how I feel about this old twit.

    I heard those same damned prophecies about JP II, because JP I died so suddenly after his ascension, and dozens of idiots decided that meant that JP II absolutely HAD to be the evil pope.

    I have a problem with thinking of him as “Benedict.” He’s not a speaker of blessedness, and in any case, I’m from Connecticut, which is the home state of arch-traitor Benedict Arnold, so that causes its own problems.

    I think I’ll just call him Ratboy. It suits him. Of course, it’s rather insulting to rats, which are intelligent and adaptable creatures, but you can’t have everything.

    And he’s old. Maybe he’ll just drop dead soon. We can keep a good thought, at least.

  9. daegaer says:

    Well said! The Catholic church has continually change, and survived change – it’s a pity for it to retreat from change as it surely will under Benedict.

  10. londonkds says:

    Very well said.
    On the question of priestly celibacy and sexual misbehaviour – I suspect that the effect may not be down to “I am damned, so might as well do the worst” as much as to the possibility that priestly celibacy may lead to the priesthood disproportionately consisting of those men who, rightly or wrongly, believe that their sexual desires are impossible to satisfy within the bounds of morality and hence do not find priestly celibacy an extra burden. Whether that translates to self-hating homosexuality or paedophilia or extreme forms of sadism or whatever.

  11. londonkds says:

    Very well said.

    On the question of priestly celibacy and sexual misbehaviour – I suspect that the effect may not be down to “I am damned, so might as well do the worst” as much as to the possibility that priestly celibacy may lead to the priesthood disproportionately consisting of those men who, rightly or wrongly, believe that their sexual desires are impossible to satisfy within the bounds of morality and hence do not find priestly celibacy an extra burden. Whether that translates to self-hating homosexuality or paedophilia or extreme forms of sadism or whatever.

  12. davywavy says:

    tremendously well written, agreed, but I have to ask:
    There are important areas in which the Church has had to accept it was wrong, and there are other areas in which it may yet do so. Or rather, find a way of spinning retreat so that it can go on pretending to being unchanging. And questions like clerical celibacy and women priests and the absolute wrongness of homosexuality and contraception are clearly among those areas.
    From whence comes the word “Clearly” in this statement? Ratzinger would doubtless argue that this is most certainly not clear and, as his is the opinion in this debate which counts, it is incumbent upon you to clarify that. One persons clarity is anothers heresy and unless you can add weight and justification to your ‘clearly’, your argument certainly lacks weight.
    You’re a skilled advocate, I grant you, but your advocacy needs greater underpinning – unless I’m missing something.
    Which is perfectly possible. I often do.

  13. davywavy says:

    tremendously well written, agreed, but I have to ask:
    There are important areas in which the Church has had to accept it was wrong, and there are other areas in which it may yet do so. Or rather, find a way of spinning retreat so that it can go on pretending to being unchanging. And questions like clerical celibacy and women priests and the absolute wrongness of homosexuality and contraception are clearly among those areas.

    From whence comes the word “Clearly” in this statement? Ratzinger would doubtless argue that this is most certainly not clear and, as his is the opinion in this debate which counts, it is incumbent upon you to clarify that. One persons clarity is anothers heresy and unless you can add weight and justification to your ‘clearly’, your argument certainly lacks weight.
    You’re a skilled advocate, I grant you, but your advocacy needs greater underpinning – unless I’m missing something.
    Which is perfectly possible. I often do.

  14. rozkaveney says:

    Two points.
    Inasmuch as I am guilty of the rhetorical trick of backing up my own position with remarks like ‘clearly’, it is a technique I was taught by the Jesuits when they taught me apologetics. You are entitled to call me on it, but only inasmuch as you also critique the a priori arguments in the Pope’s positions. And at a level of intellectual argument in which his authority is not an issue, his opinion counts for no more than mine. At any other level, e.g. one at which he is held infallible on faith and morals when arguing from scripture, patristic tradition and the decisions of councils of the church, there is no point in having this argument at all.
    I would argue that each of these dogmas falls on the question of whether it is in keeping with loving-kindness. The position of the church on contraception depends on a set of views about the purpose of human sexuality which abstract theory from actual experience – this is not in keeping with loving-kindness. Denying the vocation of the non-celibate and of women might be held consistent with loving kindness – after all no one has to be a priest and their vocations may be false – but not when so denying vocations leaves lay people without a proper number of priests. Refusing sexual fulfilment, civil equality and freedom from violence to gay people on the basis of an a priori theological construction of the purpose of human sexuality which similarly ignores reality is clearly inconsistent with loving one’s neighbour.
    I thank you for asking the question; it has enabled me to state my position more explicitly. I will do so at greater length if you absolutely insist.

  15. rozkaveney says:

    Two points.

    Inasmuch as I am guilty of the rhetorical trick of backing up my own position with remarks like ‘clearly’, it is a technique I was taught by the Jesuits when they taught me apologetics. You are entitled to call me on it, but only inasmuch as you also critique the a priori arguments in the Pope’s positions. And at a level of intellectual argument in which his authority is not an issue, his opinion counts for no more than mine. At any other level, e.g. one at which he is held infallible on faith and morals when arguing from scripture, patristic tradition and the decisions of councils of the church, there is no point in having this argument at all.

    I would argue that each of these dogmas falls on the question of whether it is in keeping with loving-kindness. The position of the church on contraception depends on a set of views about the purpose of human sexuality which abstract theory from actual experience – this is not in keeping with loving-kindness. Denying the vocation of the non-celibate and of women might be held consistent with loving kindness – after all no one has to be a priest and their vocations may be false – but not when so denying vocations leaves lay people without a proper number of priests. Refusing sexual fulfilment, civil equality and freedom from violence to gay people on the basis of an a priori theological construction of the purpose of human sexuality which similarly ignores reality is clearly inconsistent with loving one’s neighbour.

    I thank you for asking the question; it has enabled me to state my position more explicitly. I will do so at greater length if you absolutely insist.

  16. redbird says:

    A lot of Benedict’s absolute positions depend on Aquinas’ statements about natural law, and Aquinas’ positions derive in large part from Aristotle, who backed up his description of the moral universe we inhabit with examples from the actual material world which were based on false interpretations of evidence. If, for example, Aristotle is incorrect, as he is, about the fundamentals of human biology, then the analogies he draws from those fundamentals to construct a moral universe are no longer privileged with authority. If Aquinas uses Aristotle, both on ‘scientific truth’ and the construction of theology by analogy with it, and the assumption that ‘as above so below’, that truth is of a piece and internally recursive and self-reinforcing, falls along with it.
    May I quote this, with link?

    I was discussing Pope Rat with a friend last night, and she pointed out that as head of the Inquisition, Ratzinger was morally and by canon law legally and officially responsible for investigating and punishing the priests who raped children, and the bishops who covered up their crimes. He bears a responsibility beyond that of any church official who was not himself involved in the crimes.
    The College of Cardinals, unlike me, must know that this is part of the duty of the Inquisition, whatever they call it this century.

  17. redbird says:

    A lot of Benedict’s absolute positions depend on Aquinas’ statements about natural law, and Aquinas’ positions derive in large part from Aristotle, who backed up his description of the moral universe we inhabit with examples from the actual material world which were based on false interpretations of evidence. If, for example, Aristotle is incorrect, as he is, about the fundamentals of human biology, then the analogies he draws from those fundamentals to construct a moral universe are no longer privileged with authority. If Aquinas uses Aristotle, both on ‘scientific truth’ and the construction of theology by analogy with it, and the assumption that ‘as above so below’, that truth is of a piece and internally recursive and self-reinforcing, falls along with it.

    May I quote this, with link?

    I was discussing Pope Rat with a friend last night, and she pointed out that as head of the Inquisition, Ratzinger was morally and by canon law legally and officially responsible for investigating and punishing the priests who raped children, and the bishops who covered up their crimes. He bears a responsibility beyond that of any church official who was not himself involved in the crimes.

    The College of Cardinals, unlike me, must know that this is part of the duty of the Inquisition, whatever they call it this century.

  18. freixenet says:

    Wonderful post! I’m learning more in the last few days about the intricacies of the Catholic polity than I ever really wanted to know, and the more I learn, the more disturbed I grow. I suppose that’s a good thing. 🙂

  19. davywavy says:

    I insist nothing. However, I felt I had to call you on the choice of words, simply because someone who states ‘clearly’ in critiquing someone else who also believes something (entirely differently) ‘clearly’ is just setting themselves up for a pummelling down the line somewhere 🙂
    In the light of this morning’s froth about “Teh pope wuz a NAZI!!” – which most of LJ-land seems comprised of – it was a pleasure to come across someone who actually knows what they’re talking about, knows what they believe and elucidates it well.
    Consider me, at worst, playing devils advocate; but the danger of that is it’s possible to get into an endless cycle of rhetorical tricks to ‘win’, and sight is lost of the actual debates – so I’ll stop now.

  20. badger2305 says:

    Dear Roz,
    Thank you very much for some excellent and insightful commentary; I will be sharing this with friends for some time to come.
    (And I still wish John Paul I had lived longer.)
    Ah, well.

  21. badger2305 says:

    Dear Roz,

    Thank you very much for some excellent and insightful commentary; I will be sharing this with friends for some time to come.

    (And I still wish John Paul I had lived longer.)

    Ah, well.

  22. clanwilliam says:

    Wandered over from Stellanova’s journal – thank you, this was a wonderful articulation of what I could only blurt out last night “Ratzinger is intellectually dishonest”.

  23. ffutures says:

    One of the first acts of Benedict’s papacy is going to have to be to argue that, as a head of state, he does not have to obey the subpoena to appear before an American court to explain the Church’s protection of various abusers.
    It’d be interesting if he waived his immunity (or arranged to attend without submitting to the subpoena) and said he was only obeying orders…
    Just out of interest – are there any of them you would have liked?

  24. ffutures says:

    One of the first acts of Benedict’s papacy is going to have to be to argue that, as a head of state, he does not have to obey the subpoena to appear before an American court to explain the Church’s protection of various abusers.

    It’d be interesting if he waived his immunity (or arranged to attend without submitting to the subpoena) and said he was only obeying orders…

    Just out of interest – are there any of them you would have liked?

  25. Roz, as usual your arguments are beautifully defined. Your comments on the nature of Benedict are very disturbing – but equally disturbing I found his appearence on the balcony to greet the masses. He’s not a figure I am familiar with but I was somewhat taken aback by his triumphal attitude – he opened with words of humility, but his body language spoke of anything but.
    I’m neither a catholic nor an anti-catholic. I have an horror of the great souless machines organized churches can become, and a great respect for personal faith (of whatever denomination) if it inspires compassion and tolerance. If I had one wish for the catholic church it would be that the organisation could become more closer acquianted with the compassionate god they claim to represent.

  26. Roz, as usual your arguments are beautifully defined. Your comments on the nature of Benedict are very disturbing – but equally disturbing I found his appearence on the balcony to greet the masses. He’s not a figure I am familiar with but I was somewhat taken aback by his triumphal attitude – he opened with words of humility, but his body language spoke of anything but.

    I’m neither a catholic nor an anti-catholic. I have an horror of the great souless machines organized churches can become, and a great respect for personal faith (of whatever denomination) if it inspires compassion and tolerance. If I had one wish for the catholic church it would be that the organisation could become more closer acquianted with the compassionate god they claim to represent.

  27. clanwilliam says:

    I’d have been reasonably happy with Martini of Milan (unlikely, because the poor man apparently has Parkinson’s now) or Daneels of Belgium.
    A liberation theologian would have been wonderful but that would have truly required a miracle.
    But some of the South American candidates were promising.

  28. clanwilliam says:

    I’d have been reasonably happy with Martini of Milan (unlikely, because the poor man apparently has Parkinson’s now) or Daneels of Belgium.

    A liberation theologian would have been wonderful but that would have truly required a miracle.

    But some of the South American candidates were promising.

  29. rozkaveney says:

    Not really.
    Even a comparatively less oppressive Pope would be pretty bad.
    At least the gloves are off now.

  30. rozkaveney says:

    Not really.

    Even a comparatively less oppressive Pope would be pretty bad.

    At least the gloves are off now.

  31. giogio says:

    Thank you for the balanced post. I was ready to scream after watching 30 minutes of CNN last night where they tried to turn him into some sort of saint…

  32. alterjess says:

    Thank you for posting this. It’s the clearest articulation of these ideas that I’ve seen yet.

  33. crazycrone says:

    Ratman On The Balcony
    Oh, I dunno, in all fairness, that’s what Popes do, body-languagewise…It’s definitely expected of them ,and not considered to be ‘triumphal’. It’s kind of a hyped-up ‘blessing’ gesture, innit?
    I am, in any event, not pleased to see that scary man actually got elected.
    It also seems very weird that the media Pope-mania continues full-tilt. It was understandable for a very long-serving ‘star’ type like JP2, but this morning on R4 they were going on for hours about the intricacies of Vatican politics, Catholic theology, etc. I’m sure that’s never happened before, and this is my sixth Pope. What’s going on?
    While I’m faffing, what did Jesus ever say, if anything, on the topics of male/celibate priests only, contraception, being gay,etc? I know he did come down rather harder than the Vatican on the abuse of children…
    Oh yeah, and why shouldn’t Turkey join the feckin’ EU? I’m confused…

  34. crazycrone says:

    Ratman On The Balcony

    Oh, I dunno, in all fairness, that’s what Popes do, body-languagewise…It’s definitely expected of them ,and not considered to be ‘triumphal’. It’s kind of a hyped-up ‘blessing’ gesture, innit?
    I am, in any event, not pleased to see that scary man actually got elected.
    It also seems very weird that the media Pope-mania continues full-tilt. It was understandable for a very long-serving ‘star’ type like JP2, but this morning on R4 they were going on for hours about the intricacies of Vatican politics, Catholic theology, etc. I’m sure that’s never happened before, and this is my sixth Pope. What’s going on?
    While I’m faffing, what did Jesus ever say, if anything, on the topics of male/celibate priests only, contraception, being gay,etc? I know he did come down rather harder than the Vatican on the abuse of children…
    Oh yeah, and why shouldn’t Turkey join the feckin’ EU? I’m confused…

  35. jo_mako says:

    oh this was brilliant to read. I personally am Catholic and was brought up to have a great respect of the Church. While I do admire JPII I also disagree with a lot of his doctrine, and I am not afraid to discuss that with the more ‘faithful’ of my kin. I admired the man as a human being, not a theologian.
    I watched yesterday as they had the bells tolling and smoke billowing out of a small smokestack and watched with the rest of the world as it was announced that Ratzinger got it. I cringed…as I joked later I’m sure the whole of Isreal did when the announcement came.
    I do like the fact that his own brother said on CNN last night, that he’s too old to take on the mantle of the papacy. And at 78, one can hope that when the conclave reconvines, they’ll have listened to the worldwide gripe about the overbearing strictness and absoluteness that Benedict stands for in the church.

  36. jo_mako says:

    oh this was brilliant to read. I personally am Catholic and was brought up to have a great respect of the Church. While I do admire JPII I also disagree with a lot of his doctrine, and I am not afraid to discuss that with the more ‘faithful’ of my kin. I admired the man as a human being, not a theologian.

    I watched yesterday as they had the bells tolling and smoke billowing out of a small smokestack and watched with the rest of the world as it was announced that Ratzinger got it. I cringed…as I joked later I’m sure the whole of Isreal did when the announcement came.

    I do like the fact that his own brother said on CNN last night, that he’s too old to take on the mantle of the papacy. And at 78, one can hope that when the conclave reconvines, they’ll have listened to the worldwide gripe about the overbearing strictness and absoluteness that Benedict stands for in the church.

  37. sammason says:

    ‘it makes it far easier to hope that the Catholic church as we have known it will dissolve in schism and rancour. ‘
    That *is* something to hope for, imo, but I don’t think it will happen in our lifetime.

  38. sammason says:

    ‘it makes it far easier to hope that the Catholic church as we have known it will dissolve in schism and rancour. ‘

    That *is* something to hope for, imo, but I don’t think it will happen in our lifetime.

  39. Re: Ratman On The Balcony
    Yes, Pope’s do the big blessing thing, but this did seem different – at least to me.
    But yes, it’s disquietening that this new papacy is all the world seems to be able to talk about at present.
    And did Jesus ever say anything about celibate priests? I’m not a biblical scholar, but I should think it unlikely firstly because wasn’t talking about a priesthood at that time, and secondly because he came from a Jewish tradition where it is expected (and then I think compulsory) for a Rabbi to be married. (Now, I believe, it’s preferred but not compulsory.)

  40. Re: Ratman On The Balcony

    Yes, Pope’s do the big blessing thing, but this did seem different – at least to me.
    But yes, it’s disquietening that this new papacy is all the world seems to be able to talk about at present.
    And did Jesus ever say anything about celibate priests? I’m not a biblical scholar, but I should think it unlikely firstly because wasn’t talking about a priesthood at that time, and secondly because he came from a Jewish tradition where it is expected (and then I think compulsory) for a Rabbi to be married. (Now, I believe, it’s preferred but not compulsory.)

  41. Oh, thank you, I wandered over here by way of ‘s journal and you just summed up the reasons behind the entire whirling vortex of feelings I had yesterday when they announced Benedict XVI. It is a very, very bad sign when your new pontiff makes you want to cry.
    Hope you don’t mind, but after having read that fabulously coherent passage, I’ve added you to my flist.

  42. Oh, thank you, I wandered over here by way of ‘s journal and you just summed up the reasons behind the entire whirling vortex of feelings I had yesterday when they announced Benedict XVI. It is a very, very bad sign when your new pontiff makes you want to cry.

    Hope you don’t mind, but after having read that fabulously coherent passage, I’ve added you to my flist.

  43. caille says:

    If there are moral absolutes, they depend on very simple principles of loving-kindness, not on elaborate systems of doctrine about the implicit order of the universe. We find meaning by constructing it from decent behaviour to other people, because the universe is vast and random in its nature, and it does not care about us. Or, if you are a believer in God, God gave us each other as we are as a way of constructing our moral absolutes, and set us adrift and cold in a world in which there is only ourselves, and perhaps Him, to care.

    Excellent.
    I like your point about his Hitler Youth background. I’m not an apologist, but I haven’t felt like it’s a legitimate basis on which to have decided his pope-worthiness. The whole rest of his adult life – his “intransigent morality”, in brief – is sufficient to draw my conclusions about his character.
    Here’s why I felt the need to temper my criticism about his behavior in regard to the Nazi party:
    Frankly, I’m bruised and battered by the last eight or ten years of U.S. political life, as a Republican cabal ran amok with lies, accusations, insinuations…and was successful in its power grab, in no small part because of the complicity of the media, its failure to do its job. Within the past few weeks, I engaged in an exchange of e-mails with the quasi-pundit David Limbaugh because he recently wrote a column repeating the lie that the outgoing Clinton administration “trashed” the White House as it left office. Damn, people, there was an official GAO inquiry into those allegations, which concluded (a year later – i.e., May 2001 – after 220 pages of reportage and who knows how much money) that the charges were baseless and that the only disorder was the typical sort one always finds when moving offices.
    But all of those lies have been cumulative and unchallenged and the process changed our political life.
    Okay, now here’s where my hesitation about Benedict and his teen-age Nazi Youth membership becomes so awesomely, pathetically absurd: the media ain’t pilin’ on the Pope. As you say, the reality is reflected in “the sycophancy with which the world’s media, and most of the other churches, are treating the accession of this appalling man.”
    So by reminding myself to figure out what is legitimate criticism and what might be a cheap shot – or possibly just pertinent (not dispositive) information – it turns out I’m blocking an offense that hasn’t even materialized.
    Anyway, that’s the sidestreet I wandered down. Thanks for helping me get back on track.

  44. caille says:

    If there are moral absolutes, they depend on very simple principles of loving-kindness, not on elaborate systems of doctrine about the implicit order of the universe. We find meaning by constructing it from decent behaviour to other people, because the universe is vast and random in its nature, and it does not care about us. Or, if you are a believer in God, God gave us each other as we are as a way of constructing our moral absolutes, and set us adrift and cold in a world in which there is only ourselves, and perhaps Him, to care.

    Excellent.

    I like your point about his Hitler Youth background. I’m not an apologist, but I haven’t felt like it’s a legitimate basis on which to have decided his pope-worthiness. The whole rest of his adult life – his “intransigent morality”, in brief – is sufficient to draw my conclusions about his character.

    Here’s why I felt the need to temper my criticism about his behavior in regard to the Nazi party:

    Frankly, I’m bruised and battered by the last eight or ten years of U.S. political life, as a Republican cabal ran amok with lies, accusations, insinuations…and was successful in its power grab, in no small part because of the complicity of the media, its failure to do its job. Within the past few weeks, I engaged in an exchange of e-mails with the quasi-pundit David Limbaugh because he recently wrote a column repeating the lie that the outgoing Clinton administration “trashed” the White House as it left office. Damn, people, there was an official GAO inquiry into those allegations, which concluded (a year later – i.e., May 2001 – after 220 pages of reportage and who knows how much money) that the charges were baseless and that the only disorder was the typical sort one always finds when moving offices.

    But all of those lies have been cumulative and unchallenged and the process changed our political life.

    Okay, now here’s where my hesitation about Benedict and his teen-age Nazi Youth membership becomes so awesomely, pathetically absurd: the media ain’t pilin’ on the Pope. As you say, the reality is reflected in “the sycophancy with which the world’s media, and most of the other churches, are treating the accession of this appalling man.”

    So by reminding myself to figure out what is legitimate criticism and what might be a cheap shot – or possibly just pertinent (not dispositive) information – it turns out I’m blocking an offense that hasn’t even materialized.

    Anyway, that’s the sidestreet I wandered down. Thanks for helping me get back on track.

  45. whswhs says:

    Re: Ratman On The Balcony
    Back last November, I said to someone that the only election that the world would follow with as intent interest as Bush vs. Kerry was the election of John Paul II’s successor. I didn’t expect to be proved right quite so soon. But the public interest isn’t remotely surprising.

  46. whswhs says:

    Re: Ratman On The Balcony

    Back last November, I said to someone that the only election that the world would follow with as intent interest as Bush vs. Kerry was the election of John Paul II’s successor. I didn’t expect to be proved right quite so soon. But the public interest isn’t remotely surprising.

  47. sanj says:

    This is extremely cogent, and also helpful. Thank you for writing it.

  48. ophanim says:

    Very cogently formed. I’ve posted a link in my journal.

  49. Anonymous says:

    Eunuchs
    Must-read book: Uta Ranke-Heinemann, Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven. She shows how the Church repeatedly changes its position, each time blandly declaring “Thus it ever was.”

  50. Anonymous says:

    Eunuchs

    Must-read book: Uta Ranke-Heinemann, Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven. She shows how the Church repeatedly changes its position, each time blandly declaring “Thus it ever was.”

  51. centerfire says:

    An interesting post, even if I disagree with much of it, and find the reasoning rather poor.

  52. mlyn says:

    I came on over here by way of , and boy, am I glad she made that rec. This post was both fascinating and a joy to read, in terms of your grasp of philosophy and logic. And here I thought I had no one else to intellectually stimulate me after leaving the school where my philosophy professor teaches.

  53. In a sense I welcome his accession to the papacy, because it makes it far easier to hope that the Catholic church as we have known it will dissolve in schism and rancour. Some prophesies regard him as the Pope of the End Days; let us hope that they are wrong and that he is merely the last.
    Indeed. As with your comments on Andrea Dworkin, you’ve summed up my thoughts far more eloquently than I could in writing.

  54. In a sense I welcome his accession to the papacy, because it makes it far easier to hope that the Catholic church as we have known it will dissolve in schism and rancour. Some prophesies regard him as the Pope of the End Days; let us hope that they are wrong and that he is merely the last.

    Indeed. As with your comments on Andrea Dworkin, you’ve summed up my thoughts far more eloquently than I could in writing.

  55. Anonymous says:

    Re: Ratman On The Balcony
    Crazycrone, maybe R4 are sticking with Pope-mania because it’s cover this or cover the UK general election, which everybody seems completely fed up with already.
    Adding myself to the list of people who think he’s very bad news, and as Roz says, the death of the legacy of John and Vatican II.
    What I hadn’t realised was that RatPope had in the early part of his career been on the side of Vatican II and its reforms – at a time when they were the flowing tide of Catholicism and vigorously promoted by a dynamic Papacy. Meanwhile his career prospered. Subsequently he switched sides, at a point which, and the theological reasons for which he changed his mind have not really been explicated anywhere that I can see. Meanwhile his career prospered. Let’s fast-forward and we come out a while later whereupon Ratzi is now on the side of conservatism – again, the flowing tide of Catholicism and vigorously promoted by a dynamic Papacy. We all know how his career has prospered in recent days.
    Funny that.
    When all’s said and done, the priesthood is his job as well as his vocation, and will always be people who are ruthless about moving onwards and upwards. But I could do with less of the yapping about unchanging moral values blah blah etc from RatPope and apologists because his career and changes of heart/theological position smack of pure opportunism to me.
    Hee. The RatPope of Bray.
    Lin

  56. Anonymous says:

    Re: Ratman On The Balcony

    Crazycrone, maybe R4 are sticking with Pope-mania because it’s cover this or cover the UK general election, which everybody seems completely fed up with already.

    Adding myself to the list of people who think he’s very bad news, and as Roz says, the death of the legacy of John and Vatican II.

    What I hadn’t realised was that RatPope had in the early part of his career been on the side of Vatican II and its reforms – at a time when they were the flowing tide of Catholicism and vigorously promoted by a dynamic Papacy. Meanwhile his career prospered. Subsequently he switched sides, at a point which, and the theological reasons for which he changed his mind have not really been explicated anywhere that I can see. Meanwhile his career prospered. Let’s fast-forward and we come out a while later whereupon Ratzi is now on the side of conservatism – again, the flowing tide of Catholicism and vigorously promoted by a dynamic Papacy. We all know how his career has prospered in recent days.

    Funny that.

    When all’s said and done, the priesthood is his job as well as his vocation, and will always be people who are ruthless about moving onwards and upwards. But I could do with less of the yapping about unchanging moral values blah blah etc from RatPope and apologists because his career and changes of heart/theological position smack of pure opportunism to me.

    Hee. The RatPope of Bray.

    Lin

  57. queenkestrel says:

    Thank you. I was very happy to be able to read something that I couldn’t put into words, due to my horror and disbelief that Ratzinger had been elected. I’m not a catholic, personally, but I have many friends who are, and many of the were quite perturbed by his election… I may guide them this way.

  58. kayshapero says:

    “Benedict claims, for example, that clerical celibacy was always in force, from the earliest days. This is, for what it is worth, fairly clearly untrue; it was an option which some felt drawn to and inspired by. Other Christian churches look at the evidence of the early years and draw very different conclusions, either rejecting the notion of compulsory celibacy altogether, or restricting it to the higher offices.”
    No question about it. It’s there in historical record for anybody who care to take a look at it. Though judging by the review I saw of Cahill’s “How the Irish Saved Civilization” where the writer dismisses as nonsense the idea of female bishops and such, some folks really don’t want to know about it. I wish that when it came down to recombining the two, things had gone more the Irish way than the Roman.. though to be honest the main reason that happened was probably that the Irish were far more willing to be accomodating…

  59. kayshapero says:

    “Benedict claims, for example, that clerical celibacy was always in force, from the earliest days. This is, for what it is worth, fairly clearly untrue; it was an option which some felt drawn to and inspired by. Other Christian churches look at the evidence of the early years and draw very different conclusions, either rejecting the notion of compulsory celibacy altogether, or restricting it to the higher offices.”

    No question about it. It’s there in historical record for anybody who care to take a look at it. Though judging by the review I saw of Cahill’s “How the Irish Saved Civilization” where the writer dismisses as nonsense the idea of female bishops and such, some folks really don’t want to know about it. I wish that when it came down to recombining the two, things had gone more the Irish way than the Roman.. though to be honest the main reason that happened was probably that the Irish were far more willing to be accomodating…

  60. abostick59 says:

    The good news — perhaps the silver lining to the cloud — is that Maledict is old, and the choice of him as pope constitutes “more of the same, for a little while, while the political forces realign.
    Completely off the topic, it was my pleasure, hundreds of miles from home and feeling a bit lonely and cut off from my friends, to open the first page of the one novel I had brought along for recreational reading and finding a quote from a review you wrote leading off the promotional copy. Even far from home, my friends are with me. (The book is Mary Gentle’s 1610: A Sundial in a Grave, from Gollancz, and of course your quoted comments are spot-on.)

  61. abostick59 says:

    The good news — perhaps the silver lining to the cloud — is that Maledict is old, and the choice of him as pope constitutes “more of the same, for a little while, while the political forces realign.

    Completely off the topic, it was my pleasure, hundreds of miles from home and feeling a bit lonely and cut off from my friends, to open the first page of the one novel I had brought along for recreational reading and finding a quote from a review you wrote leading off the promotional copy. Even far from home, my friends are with me. (The book is Mary Gentle’s 1610: A Sundial in a Grave, from Gollancz, and of course your quoted comments are spot-on.)

  62. neva_ivan says:

    Thanks for this!! Perfect.

  63. dmsherwood53 says:

    Failiure standards
    A lot of Benedict’s absolute positions depend on Aquinas’ statements about natural law, and Aquinas’ positions derive in large part from Aristotle, who backed up his description of the moral universe we inhabit with examples from the actual material world which were based on false interpretations of evidence. If, for example, Aristotle is incorrect, as he is, about the fundamentals of human biology, then the analogies he draws from those fundamentals to construct a moral universe are no longer privileged with authority. If Aquinas uses Aristotle, both on ‘scientific truth’ and the construction of theology by analogy with it, and the assumption that ‘as above so below’, that truth is of a piece and internally recursive and self-reinforcing, falls along with it.

    Yeah this is a matter of failiure standards AKA Heads I win Tails you lose. IF
    IF
    one talks with an ‘Intelegent Believer’. The thing to get straight is what counts. If I point out that the Historical Ecvidense for Jesus ever existing is dodgy Does that get me anywhere? If I point out that your arguement for a Prime Mover depends on out of date arguemnts of the incorherancy of the Infinite Does that get me anywhere? If I point out that priests got married up untill the 10 century.Does that get me anywhere? Etc bloody etc.

  64. dmsherwood53 says:

    Failiure standards

    A lot of Benedict’s absolute positions depend on Aquinas’ statements about natural law, and Aquinas’ positions derive in large part from Aristotle, who backed up his description of the moral universe we inhabit with examples from the actual material world which were based on false interpretations of evidence. If, for example, Aristotle is incorrect, as he is, about the fundamentals of human biology, then the analogies he draws from those fundamentals to construct a moral universe are no longer privileged with authority. If Aquinas uses Aristotle, both on ‘scientific truth’ and the construction of theology by analogy with it, and the assumption that ‘as above so below’, that truth is of a piece and internally recursive and self-reinforcing, falls along with it.

    Yeah this is a matter of failiure standards AKA Heads I win Tails you lose. IF IF one talks with an ‘Intelegent Believer’. The thing to get straight is what counts. If I point out that the Historical Ecvidense for Jesus ever existing is dodgy Does that get me anywhere? If I point out that your arguement for a Prime Mover depends on out of date arguemnts of the incorherancy of the Infinite Does that get me anywhere? If I point out that priests got married up untill the 10 century.Does that get me anywhere? Etc bloody etc.

  65. vschanoes says:

    It is my understanding, and I may well be wrong, that the very common surname “Prescott” comes from “Priest’s cottage”–indicating that those who bear it are on some level descendents of the priest, indicating that priests weren’t always celibate. I’m sure you have far better historical evidence, but I thought I’d chime in with my etymological two cents.

  66. jazzypom says:

    Just… word
    Thank you for this well articulated, thought provoking post. I am catholic, but I’ve been at odds with the church for the past ten years, because my actions (you know, safe sex, contraception and the rest) have made me a hypocrite in my own religion, really.
    But yeah, thanks for this.

  67. jazzypom says:

    Just… word

    Thank you for this well articulated, thought provoking post. I am catholic, but I’ve been at odds with the church for the past ten years, because my actions (you know, safe sex, contraception and the rest) have made me a hypocrite in my own religion, really.

    But yeah, thanks for this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s