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Published:November 24th, 2009 12:29 EST
Catholic Church

Is the Catholic Church a force for good in the world? Part 2

By Ignatius Fernandez

Part 1 addressed three points  (1 a, b, and c) made by the debaters opposing the Church. Besides, it stressed the significance of two faces in the Church - the Divine and the Human. The Human face making some mistakes does not weaken the force for good that the Church is.
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 Catholic Church

2 The torture of those who owned the English Translation of the Bible.

Again, we need to judge events in context. That was a time when break-away groups were trying to weaken the Church. The English Bible, at that time, was not seen as a worthy translation of the Original Bible. Attempts to popularize the English Version were construed as rebellion, which had to be put down. Thomas Moore acted in the belief that he was protecting Church interests. But the means he used were wrong. What can be stated in his favour is that he was loyal to Jesus and His Vicar on earth. Even when King Henry VIII threatened him with dire consequences, he refused to obey him. Thomas Moore died a martyr, loving Jesus and His teachings. His repentance and martyrdom should plead his case.

3 The Church opposes gay unions.

Not only the Catholic Church, but also other Christian Denominations object to gay sex and gay unions. The splinter-group of the Anglican Church, who denounced the appointment of a gay Bishop, has made its stand clear. The Catholic Church is not alone.

I do not know if male apes (our supposed ancestors) have sex with males. Do bulls have sex with bulls; or do they prefer cows? In the world of our animal friends, where sex is between male and female (the genitals are so formed), why is man going against the natural order to claim a right to have sex with his own kind? Man and woman are so made and programmed to enjoy physical intimacy. How do sex acts by the same sex fit into the scheme? One wonders!

Does the very awkwardness make gays and lesbians reluctant to own up their sexual preferences? Even though they try to deny it, there is a hush-hush about such relationships. Deep down is there doubt; a sense of guilt?

Even at the cost of incurring the wrath of gay-supporters, I will back the Christian Churches who oppose gay unions.

4 The Church opposes artificial contraception and the use of condoms.

Why have sex-related diseases spread in recent years? It is because men and women have chosen vice over virtue. Man and woman come together in marriage to be life-long partners and to satisfy the sexual urges of each other. When they are faithful and have sex within the confines of marriage, the risk of sex-related diseases is almost zero. However, when they flout the union and choose multiple partners, they are likely to contract diseases.

The Pope`s statement on condoms has been taken out of context and misquoted to serve vested interests. Some enlightened people have supported his statement. I hope that readers of this article will have the charity to read his message before taking a stand.

One way of looking at artificial contraception and condoms, is to regard them as "licence to sin`. With these, multiple sex partners becomes a distinct option. Perhaps the Church is trying to cancel that licence. Of course, there is the flip side " a genuine need for contraception, in certain situations. For example, parents who can ill-afford more children and mothers whose health is endangered through repeated child-birth, need protection. These are legitimate concerns, because the Natural Method of Contraception does not work always and passion cannot be checked when it craves satisfaction. I join the group which hopes that the Church will reconsider its current policy and consent to selective-dispensation, in the interim, before lifting the ban on artificial contraception. The Church has changed in the past, and will change again, not in the basics, but in some rules that relate to daily living.

5 The Infallibility of the Pope.

This teaching of the Church is much misunderstood. The Pope is as human as any of us. He is not divine. He is not vested with supernatural powers. In routine decisions, he can err like any of us; and history records such errors. When he proclaims Church Doctrine, he is guided by the Holy Spirit and cannot go wrong. That is when he is infallible. For example, when he proclaimed the oneness of God and Man in the person of Jesus Christ, he was not wrong. Again, when he proclaimed the Virginity and Holiness of the Mother of Jesus, he was not wrong. Infallibility is within a context. Outside the scope of doctrine, he is susceptible to error, like us.

6 Why women are not made priests? Is it a case of bias against them?

The Greeks and the Romans of old had, and the Hindus of today have, priestesses. The Catholics do not have them. In no way is it biased behaviour against them. Let me clarify that. When Jesus chose His 12 Apostles, the first priests, He chose only men. Women followed the group of 13, to administer to their food and health needs, but they were not admitted to the core team. Jesus should have had good reason for His decision.

One way of looking at it is to understand how vulnerable a woman`s body is. Her body-needs place on her certain constraints. She cannot be as free as man, in tough situations. The life of a priest is tough. He should be available to his people at any time of day or night. He should be ready to enter unfriendly territory, encounter hostile forces and be prepared to face many hardships. A woman`s capacity for sacrifice and her tenacity are never in doubt. But her physical ability to cope with the rigours of a priest`s life, are in question. The problems that nuns face in remote and hostile locations, is a point we cannot ignore. A time will come when women are assigned certain priestly duties. With young men opting out of a life of service and sacrifice, to pursue material gains, replacing old priests who die, will become difficult. Women will then get their chance.

7 The Church is against enlightenment.

Nothing can be further from the truth. The Church has always backed the advancement of knowledge and the progress of Science. Let the facts speak. Who was the first Geologist? Albert the Great, a monk. Who was the first Chemist? Roger Bacon, a monk. Who was the first to come up with Spectroscopy? Angelo Secchi, a priest. Who invented Genetics? Gregor Mendal, a monk. Who proposed the Big Bang Theory? Georges Lemaitre, a priest. These names are only a sample from the long list of scientists, technologists, philosophers, mathematicians, poets, writers, management experts and the like that the church has produced. They and their work establish the point that the Church supports and promotes scientific endeavour and walks the path of enlightenment.

Some devotees of Science accuse the Catholic Church of being slow in responding to scientific thought. In fairness to the Church, the word "slow` has to be replaced with "studied`, because that has been her response, with good reason. From time to time, Scientists have propounded some theories which have been modified or abandoned, as new theories found supporters. Announcements on the birth of Planet Earth, the formation of the Universe, the age of the Human Race, the disappearance of some animal species, are just a few that have had to give way to new announcements. In a recent Paper, even Albert Einstein`s Theory of Relativity is challenged. If the Church had rushed to offer or withhold support to these changing theories, she would have been accused of premature and immature conclusions. As a staid body she moves with no haste. Such caution has served her well.

The case of Galileo was cited by the debaters. First, the idea of studying the Universe was a Christian idea, and not a secular initiative. Second, for most of Galileo`s life he was lionized; treated as a hero by Church leaders. His book, The Assayer, had the Church Censor writing: We`re honoured to live in a time with a man, this wonderful ". Galileo got into trouble with Church leaders towards the end of his life. Why? We do not know for sure. Different explanations have been offered by different writers. An inference made is that the falling apart was not just a question of science versus religion; there could have been another reason. It is also important to give weight to the period. The Reformation was at its worst phase and heretics were constantly attacking the Church. Was Galileo`s proposition construed as an attack on the Church? We do not know. What we know and are happy about is the apology offered by the Pope for the error of the past.

8 The first three commandments point to God`s self-centredness.

The first three commandments are supposedly imposing on followers the injunction to love God above all else. Forced love, is no love, the debaters maintained.

As Parents don`t we ask our children to do what is good and avoid evil? We care for our children and do not want them to form bad habits which will harm them and others. More than we love our children God loves us, His children. When He asks us to love Him, He is doing what He should, as a parent; urging us to choose what is best. God is not just good, but goodness itself. There is nothing higher in the scale of goodness. So when He wants us to focus on Him, He is drawing us away from anything less than the best " in our interest. God needs nothing from us; if He needed anything He would not be God, the Supreme, Complete and Perfect Being. That is why His commandments to love Him, are not for Himself, but for us. The Scottish Author and Preacher, Hugh Blair condenses this point brilliantly: It is for sake of man, not of God, that worship and prayer are required; not that God may be rendered more glorious, but that man may be made better ".

Is the Catholic Church a Force for Good In the World?  (part 1)

The Catholic Church has two faces - one Divine and the other Human. Confusing one for the other is not fair.Errors do not negate intrinsic goodness.