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The Problem with the Roman Catholic Church


I was baptized a Catholic and many of my relatives still identify themselves as Catholic. I recently attended my niece's First Communion.

When I was a teenager I started discovering what I concluded were logical fallacies in some of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. I still have many differences with these teachings, but that's not what I intend to discuss on this particular page. I'll save those for another day.

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During that trip to celebrate my niece's First Communion with my family, I spoke for a while with my step-mother. She told me that there was a vacancy in the local bishopric. When I asked her whether she knew how that vacancy would be filled, she had no idea. No idea! My step-mother is such a devout Catholic that she would not have married my father if the Church had not granted her an annulment from her previous marriage ... and she had no idea how the people making that decision for her were appointed to their powerful positions.

I'm not reporting breaking news here, but the Roman Catholic Church is not a democratic organization. Local parishes do not get to choose their priests, and technically each Catholic is assigned to a parish based on geographic boundaries. Lay persons have no vote with regard to who their bishops are (and certainly don't get to choose the Pope). The Roman Catholic Church is governed by its own set of laws, in fact, the Church is a sovereign nation administered from The Vatican:

The Catholic state occupies a geographical area of about .44 square kilometers -- some 70% of the size of the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C. It has no agricultural lands, manufactures no products (except religious kitsch and official postage stamps), engages in no trade, has no pasture lands or port. Its biggest industry, not including religious proselytizing, is worldwide financial activities and banking services. It has no opposition political parties. What passes for suffrage in the Papal state is limited to Cardinals under the age of 80 who vote for a replacement whenever a Pope expires. It has no airport (only a helicopter pad), one "official" newspaper and seven broadcasting stations, and operates on an annual budget estimated at $175 million. The Vatican as Political State, Religious Sect

Many local parishes have parish committees elected by their members, but these bodies are purely advisory -- the pastor is in charge of the parish, the bishop is in charge of the pastor, and the Pope is in charge of the bishops.

I'm sure that the Church hierarchy pays attention to the needs, desires, and complaints of its flock. But the Church is not governed by an open, democratic process. Not like most Protestant religious organizations.

The main justification for this authoritarian system is, essentially, a theory of theocracy. God set up the Church this way, and God works through the Church, so the Church's teachings reflect the Word and Spirit of God. The Pope is viewed as the direct lineal descendant of Saint Peter, and the Pope maintains a doctrine of infallibility. The Pope has stated that there is no salvation outside the Church.

Even if you are a Catholic, and you agree with all the teachings of the Church, you still have no say in which humans get to run the place. This creates a lack of accountability -- in which the typical Catholic has no idea how the Church is being administered. (No wonder there are all these sex scandals popping up ...)

Does God really decide who runs the place? Or is it an authoritarian regime in which secretive political battles are fought and decided in ways we can only guess at? To me this is the singular problem with the Roman Catholic Church, and the main reason I can not consider myself an active Catholic. I do not accept that an exclusive group of authoritarian men hold a monopoly power over passage through the gates of Heaven.


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