Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Catholic Church has no authority to speak on moral issues

Anthony Beevor, The Battle for Spain

I was reading Anthony Beevor's mighty account of the Spanish Civil war 1936-1939 just as Pope Benedict was preaching to Americans about the value of human life and protecting children.

I respect the right of men and women to hold religious beliefs. But I reject the Church's pretension to moral authority when it clearly has none. It is not just such bygone curiosities as the Inquisition or the persecution of Jews, or the blessing of fascists during WWII, or today's responsibility for continued spread of AIDS epidemic in Africa.

The evidence is also in sheer numbers.

We often think of Spain as a Catholic country. Beevor quotes figures that show that it is far from true. The following passage refers to 1931 when the young Spanish Republic debated the first draft of the constitution.

'The Church faced an acute problem. For the first time it found itself dealing with an administration which rejected the traditional idea that the Church was synonymous with Spain. The fact that religious attendance in Spain was the lowest of any Christian country did not stop Cardinal Segura from declaring that in Spain one was 'either a Catholic, or nothing at all'. Less than 20 percent of Spain's total population went to mass. In most areas south of the Guadarrama mountains the figure was under 5 per cent. Such statistics did nothing to lessen the Church hierarchy's view, both in Spain and in Rome, that the Republic was determined to persecute it.'

And, here, a description of public atmosphere in Spain at the time:

'The fanatical mysticism of the Church provoked much of the anti-clericalism in Spain, especially the 'miracles', which in the 1930s often involved a 'red' supposedly committing a sacrilegious act and dropping dead on the spot. The novelist Ramon Sender attributed the left's vandalism against churches, such as the desecration of mummies, to the Church's obsession with the kissing of saints' bones and limbs. Anything, however ridiculous, was believed by the beatas, the black-clothed women who obeyed their priests' every word like the devotees of a cult leader. In Spain there were more psychological disorders arising from religious delusions than all other kinds. This atmosphere influenced even unbelievers in a strange way. Workers formed gruesome ideas of torture in convents, and many natural catastrophes were attributed to the Jesuits in the same way as the Church blamed Freemasons, Jews and communists.'

The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939
La guerre d'Espagne

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