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Tony Grist

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Defending The Machine [Mar. 20th, 2010|10:28 am]
Tony Grist

It's not the pope's fault- particularly- he's not the maker of the machine. And it's not the fault of any named bishop- particularly- he's just a guy running about with an oily rag.  No the machine itself is the evil- an ancient evil- the product of millions of millions of little decisions- going back nearly two thousand years- all of them tending to the defence and preservation of the machine and the making of life easy for the men who have had to run it. When that Irish guy who is now head of his branch of the church sat in on that meeting where a couple of abused kids were threatened with awfulness if they ever told an outsider about their abuse at the hands of a priest he had no more influence over the machine than a checkout girl has over the running of the supermarket in which she works. He probably felt in his bones that he was doing something iffy- they probably all did- but he aquiesced. A hero would have protested- or taken off his clerical collar and walked out of the meeting- but this guy wasn't a hero.

The pope isn't a hero either. His history of aquiescence began when he slid his adolescent limbs into the fetching uniform of the Hitler Youth. I don't condemn him for that. Heroes are like hen's teeth. I'm just saying that a machine that is run by men who aren't heroes is inevitably going to turn into the kind of machine that grinds men's bones to make bread.

Of course a machine run by heroes might well be worse- a mad machine given to sudden preposterous inspirations. But then such a machine is almost inconceivable. A hero, by definition, is someone who resists the machine.

I wonder what happens next? I know what should happen. The machine should be taken apart piece by piece- and never rebuilt- or if rebuilt, rebuilt in quite another shape. That will be resisted. It's a wicked machine, a machine good for nothing but grinding men's bones to make bread- a machine staffed and run by cowards- but a human landscape without the domes and spires of the Roman Catholic church sticking up all over it? Inconceivable! The machine will de defended- again- and as always- even though it was defence of the machine that was at the beginning of all the evil it has done. 

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: idahoswede
2010-03-20 10:53 am (UTC)
Since I have you on tap, so to speak, I have a brief question off the subject that you can perhaps help me with. I'm getting into a study of early Church heresies and I was trying to remember which council it was that started purging any references to a possibility of reincarnation - was it the Nicean one?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-03-20 12:07 pm (UTC)
I had to look this up...

It was apparently the second Council of Constantinople- but there seems to be a debate over whether it condemned reincarnation in particular or just the teachings of Origen in general. :)
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[User Picture]From: frumiousb
2010-03-20 10:57 am (UTC)
If it's gone, what's in the absence? It seems to me that the root problem is the mix of political control and religion, and if the Vatican is gone, won't that impulse simply be replaced by something else? Or is reform simply impossible?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-03-20 12:12 pm (UTC)
I suspect Catholicism is indestructible. If the Vatican were removed I suppose there'd be a fracturing of the church rather like that which occured in northern Europe at the Reformation. You'd get a host of churches and congregations- some of them authoritarian and some of them free-form and experimental.
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[User Picture]From: chiller
2010-03-20 11:02 am (UTC)
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. If Rupert Murdoch had been around 2,000 years ago, he would have founded this. It's rotten, and however attached its adherents are to the robes and the ceremonies, the structure that permits such power to be wielded by such unprincipled people over such vulnerable people must simply be dismantled. I'm not just thinking of the most recent scandal, but of what has been going on in Africa for a long time, with Christianity used as a reason to beat or outcast children and so forth.

I am mindful of the good done by various Christian organisations, but surely that has more to do with people wanting to do good, than with being Christian. Secular organisations like Sport Relief seem to do an awful lot more good, without demanding obedience from the people they're being good to, or needing a headquarters that is big enough and rich enough to be declared a sovereign state.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-03-20 12:26 pm (UTC)
This scandal has severely undermined the Vatican's claim to exercise moral leadership. And now- as the lawsuits come piling in- it's threatening the coffers too. I don't suppose Catholicism- as such- will be brought down- it's just too big- but there's a strong possibility that we're going to see a different kind of church emerge- less hierarchical, poorer- maybe even one that's been broken up into lots of tiny fragments.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2010-03-20 11:27 am (UTC)
Rumor has it that Ratzenberger is gay. Back when he was fist raised to the pontificate, one of his first threats was to deal with the sex problem by simply defrocking any priest discoved to be gay. Naturally, it soon emerged that his own little secret wasn't so secret after all and could become very public at a moment's notice. Apparently, there was an intervention at the highest level and the idea was quietly scrapped.

The proximate problem is the celibacy of the priesthood clashing violently with the openly homosexual culture of the seminaries. So long as that bizarre dissonance continues a sane approach is probably impossible.

But the truth is that Rome poses no threat to me whatsoever, whereas the evangelical protestants here in the US pose a real and demonstrable threat to my liberty and well-being every time an election is held in this country. If Mother Church is evil, then what shall we call the snake handlers that defend Israel's every atrocity, that condone torture - so long as the victims are Muslim - and that cheered Bush's crusade in the Middle East?

I know who my enemies are. In comparison, at its worst the Church is a mere freak show.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-03-20 12:37 pm (UTC)
Ratzenberger gay? I hadn't heard the rumours, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least.

There's this to be said for the R.C church- as against the protestant evangelicals- that it may be wicked but it isn't stupid.
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[User Picture]From: upasaka
2010-03-20 01:21 pm (UTC)
Well said!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-03-20 01:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks.
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[User Picture]From: ideealisme
2010-03-20 01:59 pm (UTC)
I've thought for a long time that the abuse scandals are a sideshow to the fact that for a long time people below the age of 60 have stopped bothered going to Mass and don't really believe. What retains Catholicism's power is parents wishing to please others and themselves by having their children christened and bringing them to First Communion. Also as long as the RC has control over so many educational bodies in Ireland, their employers can hardly start a revolution for fear of their mortgage. But really it's down to the parents. Christening and holy communion. That's where stopping the rot has to start.

As for the no-fucking rule for clergymen, that obviously needs to go go - the only problem being that legally it's more difficult for the Church to hold on to property as a wife and mother often has rights to said property - a situation the Church ironically helped create.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-03-20 05:38 pm (UTC)
Wives and children don't seem to cause legal headaches to the Church of England or the Methodists- or any of the other denominations that allow their clergy to marry.
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[User Picture]From: haikujaguar
2010-03-20 02:01 pm (UTC)
I was going to link this next week, but thought you might find it interesting that there is some evidence that pro-social behavior is partially linked to religion.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-03-20 05:43 pm (UTC)
That's interesting.

I read- or heard- the other day that it was pro-social behaviour- particularly a willingness to trade with other groups over a wide area- that gave our lot the edge over the Neanderthals.
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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2010-03-20 08:30 pm (UTC)
I heard Christina Odone on the Radio this morning and yes, even the odious Odone wants the Pope to lie prostrate and cry "Mea culpa - mea maxima culpa". If Nostradamus said there would be no more popes after this one then this could be the reason why. All it takes is for good men to do nothing. For "good" men to cover up for their disgusting cronies is beyond the beyond of sin.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-03-20 09:24 pm (UTC)
I was reading what wikipedia has to say about that prophecy of no more popes after this one. It's probably a fake- but I very much hope it's not.
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From: mamadar
2010-03-21 01:06 am (UTC)
I keep thinking of all the science fiction novels I've read--such as the series I'm reading right now--in which the Roman Church goes on for millenia, essentially unchanged, unchallenged, Latin and celibacy and priesthood for men only. I don't think any of those writers foresaw the sexual scandals, even if Nostradamus did.

I am also secretly or not so secretly glad that for the most part, Tibetan Buddhism has not formed a large institution in this country; in fact, the most successful institutions (successful *as* institutions) in American Tibetan Buddhism have also been the dodgiest in spiritual terms.

Bright Dark Madonna, which I was reading awhile back and which deals with the post-Resurrection Jesus community from the perspective of an Irish Mary Magdalene, is heartbreakingly clear on how and why a movement based on inclusion, celebration, and compassion swiftly begins to draw lines of exclusion just like its parent religion.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-03-21 09:40 am (UTC)
I don't believe the Church can continue as it is. The last time there was a scandal this big we had Luther and the Reformation and the breaking away of most of northern Europe. When the contradictions and tensions are exerting this much pressure something has to give. It wouldn't surprise me if there wasn't an overnight collapse- rather as happened with the Soviet Empire. Is it possible for Ratzinger to go one parading about in his white robes, making moral pronouncements, when we know he covered up for paedophiles? I don't think so.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-03-22 12:10 pm (UTC)
Glad you like it. :)
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