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vol 6: Essays

Religion and Survival

World Youth week is over. The Pope has gone home. The RTA can stop plugging religion and get back to directing traffic. WYD 2008, Pope Benedict XVI - Wikipedia

One cannot dispute that the Papal visit was a magnificent display of the spin doctor's art. The young and vulnerable were targeted with smoke and mirrors. Joy and laughter abounded. Serious issues were minimized. Public relations - Wikipedia

Catholics believe in miracles and magic. Benedict indicated that our own blessed Mary McKillop will be sainted as soon as another miracle is 'authenticated'. I think that ultimately, miracles are the only evidence that the Church is really connected to God. In our quantum mechanical world anything can happen, so that miracles are not so much miraculous as natural. Miracle - Catholic Encyclopedia

The climax of Benedict's visit was a celebration of the mass. TheCatholic mass is a dramatic re-enactment of the 'Last Supper' (Matthew 26:26 sqq). To be a Catholic, one must sincerely believe that the words 'this is my body' spoken by a duly consecrated priest really change bread into the body of Jesus. John Paul II

How can this be? It is said to be a mystery, a miracle, magic wrought by God to demonstrate the truth of His Church.

* * *

When it comes to making decisions that constrain our future we need all the help we can get. Once we start looking there is no shortage of information. But much of it is contradictory, so we must decide who to trust. In this way, faith enters human life and guides our fate.

Can I trust the Pope? Can I trust an institution that demands that I ignore the evidence of death and assert the reality eternal life in another invisible world? An institution that claims my ancestors disobeyed God and so defected the whole universe?

As I see it, the fundamental error of the Roman Catholic Church is denial of human experience. It surrounds itself with secrecy and mystery while claiming be infallibly trustworthy. It demands belief without evidence. We are being asked to live with our eyes closed.

Disaster is inevitable. The Church is nowhere more evidently wrong than is the area of gender, sexuality and reproduction. Kalbian

First of course, women are of no account. Women may be used but not heard. With the Church as it is, we will never see a woman become pope, let alone a woman priest or bishop. Campaign for the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church

Secondly, the Church extols celibacy to the exclusion of normal sexuality. Only the nominally celibate have access to the levers of power. The error of this position is very evident in the public sexual crimes of the Catholic clergy. The error is compounded by attempted cover ups. Pius XII - Sacra Virginitas, Catholic sex abuse cases - Wikipedia

Finally, having no official experience of sexuality, the Church maintains that any sensual or sexual activity outside marriage is sinful. Sex within marriage is ok, as long as no steps are taken to prevent conception. Sexual fun and games are out. Pius XII - Casti Conubii

Such deep misunderstanding can only be possible in an institution blind the reality of humanity. They say that the Fall defected human nature, but there is no evidence for the Fall. Decree Concerning Original Sin

* * *

So what are we to do about this Church? Ignore it? Oppose it? Outlaw it? Make out, as our governments have done, that it is a benign organization, entitled to propagandize our youth under the rubric of religious freedom?

A thousand years ago, the Church ruled Europe in a very concrete way. It lay at the heart of political, military and industrial power. The Popes were potentates who expected the allegiance of princes and their armies. They used the secular arm to execute non-believers. Catholic monasteries were at the centre of industrial power. Church and state in medieval Europe - Wikipedia

Fortunately, this grip was loosened by the likes of Martin Luther, Henry VIII, Galileo and the millions of others who saw themselves as better than sinful inhabitants of a defective world. Martin Luther - Wikipedia, Henry VIII of England - Wikipedia, Albert van Helden

Loosened, but not broken. Fundamentalism still roams the world. George Bush believes that he was on a mission from God when he invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Fundamentalism - Wikipedia, BBC

Our freedom and survival depend on our respect for reality. Our grip on reality is mediated by evidence. On the other hand, there can be no doubt that our collective behaviour is deeply influenced by religion. World Youth day is evidence of that. We must therefore work to replace mystery, miracles and magic with evidence based religion.

The truth is not hidden. The world is not a puppet worked by an invisible God. Reality is here for all to see. I trust the world. Bread is bread, and I am perfectly happy with that.

(Written for ABC Perspective. Broadcast 31 July 2008. ABC, Jeffrey Nicholls

(Revised 2 December 2008)


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Further reading


Click on the "Amazon" link below each book entry to see details of a book (and possibly buy it!)

Kalbian, Aline H, Sexing the Church: Gender, Power and Ethics in Contemporary Catholicism, Indiana University Press 2005 Amazon product description: 'Product Description The regulation of human sexuality in contemporary Catholicism, a topic that monopolizes public conversation about the Catholic Church, is also a central concern of Catholic theological discussions of religious ethics. Aline H. Kalbian traces the history of the connection between moral theology and sexual ethics as it applies to the concern for order in official teachings on marriage, reproduction, and sex. She explores order as it is reflected in the theology of marriage, the 20th-century challenge to that order in the debates on contraception and assisted reproduction, and the way attitudes about gender in Catholicism connect theological and moral order with ecclesiastical order.' Aline H. Kalbian is Assistant Professor of Religion at Florida State University. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida 
ABC, Perspective, 'Mon-Fri 5.55pm (Q/NT 6.55pm) presented by Paul Barclay repeated Tuesday-Saturday at 3.55am presented by Sue Clark.' back
Albert van Helden, Johannes Kepler, 'In 1610 Kepler heard and read about Galileo's discoveries with the spyglass. He quickly composed a long letter of support which he published as Dissertatio cum Nuncio Sidereo ("Conversation with the Sidereal Messenger"), and when, later that year, he obtained the use of a suitable telescope, he published his observations of Jupiter's satellites under the title Narratio de Observatis Quatuor Jovis Satellitibus ("Narration about Four Satellites of Jupiter observed"). These tracts were an enormous support to Galileo, whose discoveries were doubted or denied by many.' back
BBC, BBC - Press Office - George Bush on Elusive Peace, 'Nabil Shaath says: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, "George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan." And I did, and then God would tell me, "George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq …" And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, "Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East." And by God I'm gonna do it.'"' back
Campaign for the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church, The ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church, 'We love our family, the Catholic Church. We fully accept the authority of the Pope. We respect his personal integrity as an outstanding spiritual leader. But we are convinced that the Pope and his advisors in Rome are making a serious mistake by dismissing women as priests. We feel obliged in conscience to make our carefully considered reasons known, fulfilling our duty to speak out as our present Pope has repeatedly told us to do.' back
Catholic sex abuse cases - Wikipedia, Catholic sex abuse cases - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 'The Catholic sex abuse cases are a series of convictions, trials and investigations into allegations of child sexual abuse crimes committed by Catholic priests and members of Roman Catholic orders against children as young as 3 years old with the majority between the ages of 11 and 14. back
Church and state in medieval Europe - Wikipedia, Church and state in medieval Europe - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 'After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, there emerged no single powerful secular government in the West, but there was a central ecclesiastical power in Rome, the Christian Church. In this power vacuum, the Church rose to become the dominant power in the West.' back
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - Wikipedia, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - Wikipedia, the fre encyclopedia, 'The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) (Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei), previously known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, and sometimes simply called the Holy Office is the oldest of the nine congregations of the Roman Curia. Among the most active of these major Curial departments, it oversees Catholic doctrine. The CDF is the modern name for what used to be the Holy Office of the Inquisition.' back
David Hobson, The Holy Mass, 'The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the unbloody sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ. It is substantially the same as the bloody sacrifice of the cross, and was instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ at the Last Supper on the first Holy Thursday evening, just as He was entering upon His Passion. Then it was that He changed bread and wine into His most holy Body and Blood, and offered them in sacrifice, giving at the same time to His Apostles and their successors the power and the command to continue this sacred action in commemoration of Him to the end of time.' back
Fundamentalism - Wikipedia, Fundamentalism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 'Fundamentalism as a movement arose in the United States, starting among conservative Presbyterian academics and theologians at Princeton Theological Seminary in the first decade of the Twentieth Century. It soon spread to conservatives among the Baptists and other denominations during and immediately following the First World War. The movement's purpose was to reaffirm orthodox Protestant Christianity and zealously defend it against the challenges of liberal theology, German higher criticism, Darwinism, and other "-isms" which it regarded as harmful to Christianity.' back
Henry VIII of England - Wikipedia, Henry VIII of England - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 'Henry VIII was a significant figure in the history of the English monarchy. Although in the first years of his reign he energetically suppressed the Protestant reformation of the church, a movement having roots with the martyr John Wycliffe of the 14th century, he is more popularly known for his political struggles with Rome. These struggles ultimately led to him separating the Anglican church from the Roman hierarchy, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and establishing himself as the Supreme Head of the Church of England.' back
Jeffrey Nicholls, Religion and Survival, back
John Paul II, Catechism of the Catholic Church, '1333 At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ's Body and Blood. Faithful to the Lord's command the Church continues to do, in his memory and until his glorious return, what he did on the eve of his Passion: "He took bread...." "He took the cup filled with wine...." The signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ; they continue also to signify the goodness of creation. Thus in the Offertory we give thanks to the Creator for bread and wine,[152] fruit of the "work of human hands," but above all as "fruit of the earth" and "of the vine" - gifts of the Creator. The Church sees in the gesture of the king-priest Melchizedek, who "brought out bread and wine," a prefiguring of her own offering.' back
John T Driscoll, Catholic Encyclopedia - Miracle, 'The wonder of the miracle is due to the fact that its cause is hidden, and an effect is expected other than what actually takes place. Hence, by comparison with the ordinary course of things, the miracle is called extraordinary. In analyzing the difference between the extraordinary character of the miracle and the ordinary course of nature, the Fathers of the Church and theologians employ the terms above, contrary to, and outside nature. These terms express the manner in which the miracle is extraordinary.' back
Martin Luther - Wikipedia, Martin Luther - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 'Martin Luther (10 November 1483 – 18 February 1546) was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation.He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517. His refusal to retract all of his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 resulted in his excommunication by the pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the Emperor.' back
Paul III - Council of Trent, Decree Concerning Original Sin, '1. If anyone does not confess that the first man, Adam, when he transgressed the commandment of God in paradise, immediately lost the holiness and justice in which he had been constituted, and through the offense of that prevarication incurred the wrath and indignation of God, and thus death with which God had previously threatened him, and, together with death, captivity under his power who thenceforth had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil, and that the entire Adam through that offense of prevarication was changed in body and soul for the worse, let him be anathema.' back
Pius XII, Casti Conubii, '4. We have decided therefore to speak to you, Venerable Brethren, and through you to the whole Church of Christ and indeed to the whole human race, on the nature and dignity of Christian marriage, on the advantages and benefits which accrue from it to the family and to human society itself, on the errors contrary to this most important point of the Gospel teaching, on the vices opposed to conjugal union, and lastly on the principal remedies to be applied.' back
Pius XII - Sacra Virginitas, Papal Encyclicals Online, '32. This doctrine of the excellence of virginity and of celibacy and of their superiority over the married state was . . . revealed by our Divine Redeemer and by the Apostle of the Gentiles; so too, it was solemnly defined as a dogma of divine faith by the holy council of Trent, and explained in the same way by all the holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church.' back
Pope Benedict XVI - Wikipedia, Pope Benedict XVI - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 'Pope Benedict XVI (Latin: Benedictus PP. XVI; Italian: Benedetto XVI; German: Benedikt XVI; born Joseph Alois Ratzinger on 16 April 1927) is the 265th and reigning Pope, by virtue of his office of Bishop of Rome, the spiritual head of the Roman Catholic Church, and as such, Sovereign of the Vatican City State.[1] He was elected on 19 April 2005 in a papal conclave, celebrated his Papal Inauguration Mass on 24 April 2005, and took possession of his cathedral, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, on 7 May 2005. Pope Benedict XVI has both German and Vatican citizenship. He succeeded Pope John Paul II.' back
Public relations - Wikipedia, Public relations - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 'Public Relations (PR) is the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc. back
WYD 2008, World Youth Day 2008, 'World Youth Day (WYD) is the largest youth event in the world and was held in Sydney from Tuesday 15 to Sunday 20 July 2008.' back is maintained by The Theology Company Proprietary Limited ACN 097 887 075 ABN 74 097 887 075 Copyright 2000-2014 © Jeffrey Nicholls