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Austin Cline

Is the Catholic Church an Intrinsically Immoral Institution?

By November 28, 2013

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There's a lot of criticism of what churches and religious organizations do, but maybe not quite so much of what they are. This is only natural since it's easier to point out flaws or problems in behavior than it is to argue that there is something inherently or intrinsically wrong in something's very nature.

It's an issue that's worth approaching, though, because such an argument, if successful, will be much more devastating.

Ophelia Benson writes:

I say it is, because it is a powerful but wholly unaccountable institution which tries to impose its dogmatic rules on everyone. It's authoritarian, and it's officially all-male. The source of its power and authority is its imaginary relationship to an imaginary god.

Those features taken together are enough on their own to make it an intrinsically immoral institution. It bosses people, on the basis of an invisible unaccountable god, and it answers to no one. That's a god-based dictatorship, and that's intrinsically immoral. It excludes half of humanity from even the possibility of sharing its power, and that's intrinsically immoral.

And those features aren't all. There's its long long history of murderous persecution of "heretics" and other rebels against its arbitrary unaccountable power. There's the squalid history of the Vatican as a state. There's the blood-chilling history of Ireland's industrial "schools" and Magdalen laundries. There's Savita Halappanavar. And there is of course the sprawling history of child-rape by priests and the church's refusal to obey the law and report its child-raping employees to the police.

The fact that people aren't forced to submit to the Catholic Church doesn't counter this argument, though this is a weak rebuttal given the fact that Catholic leaders actively work for ways that would force people to live under their church's rules. The fact that the listed problems exist elsewhere also doesn't amount to a good rebuttal because "intrinsic" doesn't mean that the quality at issue is unique.

The fact it's theoretically possible for the Catholic Church to reform and change also doesn't counter this argument; first, because it's had plenty of time and second because that doesn't change it's nature now. What's "intrinsic" to something can change over time, after all. A theoretical future Catholic Church might not be intrinsically immoral, but that doesn't affect what we have right now, today.

So the questions raised are: is an unaccountable dictatorship intrinsically immoral or not? If not, why not? If it's morally acceptable when the dictator is God but not when the dictators are human, why? How is it morally acceptable when it's still humans who are providing all we know about the alleged will of this alleged god?

Comments
November 30, 2013 at 10:20 am
(1) Jeanne says:

I consider Christianity to be immoral in any of it’s forms. First of all, to punish an innocent person for what others have done is immoral. To punish an innocent person for “sins” that have not yet been committed is even worse. Then, to threaten anyone who does not think that this is a great idea with eternal punishment is the height of immorality. Just when you think it cannot get any worse you have those who believe that they are automatically forgiven for any wrongdoing simply for holding the “right” set of beliefs. So, thinking the right things even if you are doing the wrong things is better than thinking differently, using reason and logic and doing the right things? Concerning the Catholic church, they have been unaccountable for anything that has gone on or is still going on withing it’s ranks. Such an organization has no business preaching morality.

December 2, 2013 at 7:39 pm
(2) J. Van Bergen says:

The question whether a particular religious teaching is wrong in its teachings, structure and actions is a very important one. It should be answered only after examining its funamentals.
The Bible is a book which glorifies actions by individuals as well as groups which are in every respect criminal in nature. The Khoran is no different. All these actions, like autocratic oppression, murder, genocide, infanticide, incest and rape were justified as being either committed in the name of God or were directly ordred by God. How can any religion, based on these teachings be called “Moral”.

December 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm
(3) Jeanne says:

Christianity in any of it’s forms is an immoral religion. Any religion that teaches people that they are evil and unworthy unless they belong to that religion and agree to certain rituals is immoral. Any religion that teaches that even among believers, there are those who are inferior, such as women, is immoral. Any religion that teaches that a newborn baby is already sinful and unless water is sprinkled on it’s head or totally immersed while the proper incantations are recited is immoral. Any religion that teaches that if the infant dies before such rituals can be performed is doomed to an eternity of suffering is immoral. This idea totally condemns the billions of people who were not fortunate enough to be born in a country that teaches people to worship the “right ” god and totally eliminates the need for personal responsibility. After all, a mass murderer or a serial rapist only has to accept Jesus before getting the lethal injection and he enjoys an eternity of bliss while a Hindu or Muslim doctor who saved countless lives will suffer forever for following the “wrong” religion. That is an immoral concept.

Christianity is a religion based on human sacrifice. Of course, they have cleaned it up so that they can bathe themselves in the “blood”: without all the mess, but it it is still the sacrifice of a choice victim God sacrifices himself to himself for the sins of others and for sins not even committed as of yet. Is that really the best idea the almighty creator of the universe could come up with?

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