Thursday, March 5, 2009

I am so mad at you, "Archbishop" Sobrinho

From Fox News:

A Roman Catholic archbishop says the abortion of twins carried by a 9-year-old girl who allegedly was raped by her stepfather means excommunication for the girl's mother and her doctors.

Despite the nature of the case, the church had to hold its line against abortion, Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho said in an interview aired Thursday by Globo television.

"The law of God is higher than any human laws," he said. "When a human law — that is, a law enacted by human legislators — is against the law of God, that law has no value. The adults who approved, who carried out this abortion have incurred excommunication."

Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao rebuked the archbishop, saying, "I'm shocked by two facts: by what happened to the girl and by the position of the archbishop, who in saying he defends life puts another at risk."

What about the stepfather? What does the Catholic Church of Brazil have to say about him? And WHAT, may I ask, about the Archbishop's sentiments at all resembles anything close to the spirit of Christ?

1 Corinthians 13 says:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
I know it's a revolutionary thought, Sobrinho, but maybe you should try letting love guide your actions instead of petty self-righteousness. WTFWJD?


Phoebe said...

This does not surprise me, because I don't expect much from the Catholics to begin with. They are crazy, their doctrines are crazy, and this guy is just toeing the line. I know there are some Catholics who are "cool" but how can they be Catholics? The infallibility of the Pope, that alone is automatic crazy train, given - to name only one thing - the selling off of indulgences practiced by previous Popes. And one thing is all you need to contradict "infallible".

I know it's your job to highlight the differences between what some Christians do and what Jesus and/or parts of the Bible said, but is this guy not being consistent with what the Catholic rules are? I wouldn't ask him to bend the rules just a little for this poor child, whose case is super-sympathetic. I'd ask him to stop being a Catholic because the rules are stupid and mean, and of course inconsistent with the whole Jesus/Love thing, but given that he IS a Catholic, well, that's what they do, excommunicate people. It's their crazy club, with their crazy rules. He's just following them, isn't he?

To boil it down - isn't your beef with Catholicism rather than this one guy?

Rashaki said...


Because we all know that there are no protestants in this country who want to make abortions illegal even in cases of rape and incest, right?

As an atheist, I'd love to say that all Christians are on that crazy train. This blog is about showing that there are Christians that don't deserve to be written off in that way, despite some of the crazy rules in the bible. Pointing at Catholics and writing them all off because of their crazy rules is a bit against the spirit of the blog.

ESI said...

@Rashaki: This. @Phoebe: part of the point, also, of this blog (I think, if I can speak for JOcelyn a little) is to show Catholics, and Christians, that if they lived by the spirit of the Bible, they would have different rules. And that those rules would be more in keeping with God's actual word and would end up making the world better.

Jocelyn said...

Thanks, Rashaki and ESI. I couldn't have said it better myself.

As for you, Phoebe, I'm Catholic (sometimes very regretfully). Most of my family is Catholic. I know several nuns and priests, and several other lay Catholics. Almost none of these people have a personal morality that falls in line with the current Pope. We were all much happier under the inoffensive (if uninspiring) Pope John Paul II. We all adore Pope John XXIII, Mother Theresa, and other Catholics who spent their lives trying to make the world a better place. My family loves the Kennedys (actually, my dad has a big man-crush on Ted), and we feel that they represent the kind of Catholic that we are more than, say, Rick "I'm A Horrible Person" Santorum.

We all know that the Catholic Church has flaws, like any other institution where human beings are allowed to be members. When all is said and done, however, saying that this Brazilian "Archbishop" is more Catholic than we are would be like saying, back when Bush was president, that Rush Limbaugh was more American than the Democrats because his ideology fell more in line with their douchebag leader. So, like, horrendously untrue and really offensive.

That said, I'm no longer attending regular Catholic masses until the Catholic Church gets its shit together (I'll be writing some letters to Archbishops and the like). For the time being, I'm playing Protestant.

Phoebe said...

I understand ESI's comment. If you want to change the rules, then I get it.

Rashaki, I wasn't trumpeting Protestants, nor was I writing off Catholics. I was writing off Catholicism IF what I understand is correct, that this kind of thing - the excommunication - is in keeping with the rules.

I know a whole ton of Catholics who are terrific people too. My father's gigantic family is full of them, for starters.

But I was not raised Catholic and I don't really know the rules, so I'm asking and not telling, but isn't one of the rules that the Pope is infallible? If so, then wtf x 1,000,000?

Look, I'm all about the pick and choose - of course it's natural to like this Pope better than that Pope, this rule better than that rule, but if the club rules specifically state you have to be down with xyz doctrine, including that this little girl and her mom get excommunicated as a matter of policy, and you are not down with that, then how can you still want to be a member of the club? Because you like other club members and the good work they do?

If a defining trait of this religion is that the Pope is always right, then how can you be Catholics if you don't care what the Pope thinks [except to get mad at it]? Even if a majority of you don't care what the Pope thinks, and prefer the Kennedys, and decide that it's all about good works and not excommunication or strict obedience, then why don't you all defect en masse?

And if you're trying to change the rules from within [I hear there's a lot of loot in the treasury, and that could go to a lot more good works], then shouldn't someone be coming up with a manifesto or something, a new rulebook? Instead of complaining each and every time some functionary follows the horrible horrible rules?

And Jocelyn: Where the Rush/Bush analogy breaks down for me is that "American" is not anywhere defined as adherence to the beliefs of the leader. If Catholicism is defined by a set of rules and beliefs - especially if one of which is to be completely subservient and allied to the leader - and not, say, by the aggregate beliefs of the membership, then how is the Archbishop [and I don't know why you put that in quotes] not more Catholic?

I'm not trying to piss people off - I really don't understand.

Rashaki said...

Sorry if I let my sarcasm get the better of me in my previous post. Something about the internet makes us all a bit more defensive.

Papal Infallibility isn't all it's cracked up to be.

In short, the pope isn't always right. But even if he supposedly were, I'd imagine that Catholics feel like there's more to their belief structure than that one doctrine. Like you said, you can still pick and choose.

There's plenty of dissent among the papists despite their attempts to present a unified front. You can think the church or a bishop or even the pope (or even St. Peter himself) got something wrong without it automatically ejecting you from the club.

Jocelyn said...

Phoebe, let me try to explain. Most Catholics did not decide to be Catholic. We were born Catholic, our families are Catholic... sometimes we have the odd not-Catholic cousin (my dad's cousin converted to Baha'i. It was a huge family scandal), but we're all Catholic, mostly because we're all Irish (in my family's case, anyway. Feel free to substitute whatever). I'm sure similar things can be said of other branches of Christianity, but I've always seen Catholicism as more like reform Judaism in this way. It's more about family than belief systems.

That being the case, Catholicism can be a very difficult religion to leave. The Tradition, in particular, becomes very ingrained. The positive in all this, however, is that most Catholics take a lot of ownership of the religion. As far as I know, Catholics whose ideologies fall in line with the current, more conservative leaders of the Church are few and far between. We don't see the Church for what it used to be - a political machine, but rather a collection of histories and traditions, of which we are all a part. In short, Catholicism is a culture as much as it is a religion. This is particularly true in places like Brazil.

That's why these excommunications are so offensive. These doctors aren't people who, say, refused to accept Vatican II and gained a reputation for being anti-Semitic in a religion that usually enjoys a pretty good relationship with Judaism (I'm looking at you, the Society of St. Pius X). These are people who saw a horrible situation and did what they thought was best to make it better, and as a result have been cut off from a valuable part of their history and culture.

Does the Church have the power to do this? Obviously. Do they have the right? Not really. This girl wasn't the first Catholic to have an abortion, and she won't be the last. The only reason anyone was excommunicated for this was because she was already in the news for being a pregnant nine-year-old. In other words, they wanted to make an example out of her. It would have been politically detrimental for the Church to have excommunicated the kid (and honestly, I don't think the Vatican would have let that happen). But in excommunicating her mother and these doctors, the Church has made their attitude on abortion very clear. The problem, however, is that this abortion was carried out to save a kid's life, and (as far as I know) no Catholic has ever been excommunicated for having the regular old "oops I'm pregnant - better take care of that" kind of abortion.

I've digressed, I guess. But what I want to say is that being Catholic doesn't necessarily mean adherence to a leader any more than being American does. Obviously being a member of a religion and being a citizen of a country are two very different things, but what I'm trying to explain is that being Catholic is about a lot more than following the rules of Catholicism. The only reason Catholicism has so many members is because of their place in certain cultures and races. To be Brazilian is to be Catholic (by and large), and look at the response the Church has gotten there. The president of Brazil has condemned these excommunications, as have several other public officials. These people are members of the Church, but they dissent on this issue. It doesn't mean they're not really Catholic. It just means they don't see Catholic law and dogma as an arbitrary stack of rules to follow no matter what. As my mother always says when she's arguing with the bank (or similar), "policy is only effective when combined with judgement."

I'm sorry if that was really incoherent. I'm working on a research paper that's getting the best of me. And now I have to go work on it some more. Bleaugh.

Hannah said...

The Pope is not infallible except under very specific circumstances and the only tiem since Vatican I that infallibility was used was in 1950. So I guess that's a yes and no.

Nothing in this world is black and white. I think that's what this Brazilian archbishop - and the Catechism of the Catholic Church - ignored. The goal of Christianity, whether you are Catholic or Protestant or one of those whacko fundementalist types is to live your life in a Christ-like way. Christ didn't follow the rules all the time, especially if they were unjust. So you have to take the rules and ask yourself what would Jesus do?

Phoebe said...

Thanks a LOT, Jocelyn, I got it when you compared it to being Jewish. That is very much a cultural thing. And I also get that these enforcer people are not at all consistent in their caring about or application of the rules. That's part of what makes them so infuriating to me.

I was a criminal defense lawyer, and I keep looking at all of this through that lens, I think. The rules are taken a lot more seriously in that culture, the justice system, with its many avenues of redress/appeals courts. And then, if you don't like the rules, you can try and change the law. Which, though difficult, is a lot easier in a democracy than in a religion.

Catholicism seems more like the Republican party to me right now - they're kicking people out and being very small-tent, tolerating no dissent or discussion, and that, in turn, drives people out, people who only see things getting worse.

It's nice that you can at least vote with your feet and land somewhere kinda like the home you left. I guess that's what it's like for Jewish people with their different varieties - orthodox, reform, etc.

I was raised by atheists, and am kind of jealous, in fact, of all of you.

Phoebe said...

Also I'm going to steal your mom's line.

Jocelyn said...

Feel free to steel my mom's line, Phoebe. She's got some good ones.

And to be honest, I'm jealous that you were raised without religion. I will probably do that with my kids. I wouldn't want them to get a complex.

Phoebe said...

For real? You're not kidding? You're not going to take them to church? What if they want to come with? My mom left me with some missionary hippies in Belize for two weeks when I was 9, and I came back a fundamentalist, miserable that she was going to hell, and worried that the apocalypse was going to happen right after the alignment of the planets in 1982. I finally dropped the whole thing when I was 15, but it was kind of stressful.

If I'd had any home training I would not have been vulnerable to this stuff. But no, let the little kid believe what she wants, that's the hippie way.

Jocelyn said...

Yikes. My next-door neighbors growing up were evangelical fundamentalist Christians. They are also the nicest people ever and my family is still really close with them. When I was a kid, though, I used to go to Bible school with them every Wednesday until one day my mom wouldn't let me go anymore. I assume I must have come home and said something really offensive.

Anyway, I feel like growing up the spiritual guidance I got from my family was a lot more beneficial to me than the shit I picked up at Catholic school (most of which took me years to recover from). So I'd much rather give my kids a more vague idea of God and let them do the whole religion thing later than have the skills to not blindly believe in stupid things like abstinence.

Phoebe said...

That is an important distinction: You would be giving your kids some idea of God, so when they hear about God sending people to hell who [fill in the blank], they would come to you and talk about it, not just swallow it whole.

Jocelyn said...

Exactly. But I really would prefer if they didn't grow up hearing things like "sex is horrible and sinful", because that can lead to some problems later on.

...Not that I'd know anything about that.

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