"Catholic Church reeling after staggering extent of child abuse revealed."
National news today (20170207)
Bringing Religion to the table
[Originally posted (20160313) ]
Following the view expressed earlier on this blog that all this 'Islamophobia' won't be dealt with until Christianity brings itself to the table, I'm reassured of moves in this direction by learning that Harvard University has a free course offering Christians an opportunity to update their definitions - much like Plate Tectonicists who may be reading this blog are being offered an opportunity to update theirs to Earth expansion. The view seems to be getting some official reinforcement. However I'm wondering why it isn't the Vatican doing this rather than Harvard, and if there might be a question of infringement when it comes to territory and Mumbo Jumbo flogging folks for their transgressions in respect of the Meaning of Life [1/3] [2/3] [3/3] [Postscript]
Traditionally, the confessional is used in the Catholic Church for the 'admission of sin', of which there are two sorts, mortal and venial, the difference being those that imperil your mortal soul and preclude you from a ride to Heaven on the big pink winged horse when the time comes around, and those that are "less serious breaches of God's Law". In case the punter has trouble making a bet on which is which, and how serious is 'serious', guidance is offered by the state on one hand (via Courts of Law) and by the church on the other (via the Confessional).
In the bad old days and in the eyes of the church, children weren't considered morally or criminally responsible for their transgressions until they were teenagers, when the first stirrings of hormonal behaviour was held to corrupt their innocence, which was when the Holy Father would invite them into the confessional to fill up his vicarious clerical ear with a cornucopia of their misthoughts or, better (depending which side of the curtain you were on), their misdeeds.
The church has always had a troubled relationship with the state in regard to judicial exemption, particularly when it comes to taxation :-
" .. The judicial exemption of the clergy could interfere deeply in the life of the city as criminal and civil suits were removed from the city's jurisdiction if clergymen were involved. "It was hard to tolerate and very difficult to understand that there should be a group of inhabitants who in principle sought justice outside the city walls and who could not be held accountable within the city itself." Nevertheless it seems that the legal exemption of the clergy aroused far less opposition than its tax exemption.".. " (Link)Not sure of dates [.. in the 1920's ?] but as usual after a war when society tends to reconfigure itself, recruitment into the Catholic Church was particularly poor. There was further clarification (by papal encyclical?) of the extent to which misdeeds by members of the Church would be exempt from judicial accountability, saying that these would be dealt with by God's will (i.e., that of his representatives) (i.e., would be kept out of sight of the general public). This meshed with the decree, Quam Singulari, already sculpted by the Sacred Congregation of the Discipline of the Sacrament (1910) as the "age of reason" which was deemed to be the age at which children would be considered cognitively capable of distinguishing between ordinary bread on the table and that of the Eucharist, or more prosaically, right from wrong, and was judged to be somewhere around the age of six to eight.
Well, of course, I don't know, .. maybe it's just me, .. but in a population shepherded by clergy who were already the butt of jokes around choirboys and altarboys , and the tacit admission by the Church that there was a tendency among certain of its members for homosexuality [despite being deemed celibate in the eyes of God when of course the ones doing the deeming and the judging about what 'celibate' (and the difference between mortal and venial) meant, were the members themselves], that lowering of ages seems to me to have been something like the answer to a p.p.preying pedophile's prayer, .. a magnet, .. a beacon on a clear night. A 'carrot', .. an answer to the recruitment problem.
In other words, a deliberate move by the church, .. knowing of its own historical predilection.
So now as the passage of time attests, it is all in the spotlight, being mediated as a subect of shock horror, when to the wider public it is more like mock ("so what else is new?") horror, and the church itself appears to be somewhat likewise bewildered, making this apparent by turning its focus to its finances  rather than to denying its reputation . ["So what's everybody going on about? There's been homosexuality in the church ever since the year dot. So what, if we drop the age of reason /consent a bit? Children are still accountable for their actions in their little six-to-eight year-old minds are they not (?), if not their little bodies. It's not our fault. Crikey! .. the Sacred Congregation of the Discipline of the Sacrament deemed them capable of distinguishing between bread and crackers, when even I have trouble with that one... They are real knowing little buggers, if you ask me! Why blame me?"]
[Addendum - Easter Message - 20160325 (suggested listening 10-23 mins and 36-end mins)].
Anyway, .. trends in accountability (and Plate Tectonics, .. in case the reader is wondering).
Harvard (to the Pope's relief or consternation I'm not quite sure which) is apparently buying into this supposed (as if anything will really change) clean-up - because it seems to me that the key phrase being used - "through the lens of scripture" - is a bit of a dogwhistle that can be taken as meaning either real change, or 'business as usual', depending whether it is interpreted as placing 'scripture' in the driving seat or putting it in the boot.
Harvard's course leader is debunking the myth that you can understand religion through it's scriptural texts, saying that most people are functionally illiterate when it comes to religion, that religion changes according to political cultural, social, moral, historical and economic needs, .. that the bible is not the entry point to understanding Christianity and that it isn't about believing "sacred texts" that tell you how God should direct your life, .. but is more like a toolbox or a handbag to rummage through to find something you can adapt to get you out of whatever fix you might find yourself in. Like lipstick or clean undies (if you're a woman) in case of getting run over by Richard Gere in his limo, .. or a shifting spanner (if you're a bloke needing to fix him) or just a user's manual to consult on hope and meaning when all else fails. But nevertheless you need to rummage according to what the "the lens of scripture" let's you see.
Both Islam + Christianity make weighty claims on how God's (or the prophet's) Word should be interpreted, .. to the point that maybe it shouldn't be interpreted at all, .. maybe it should just be ignored completely.
Twenty-six thousand registrations from 164 countries already (she says). Below is a transcript of some of part of an interview about the course (you can listen here) :-
Q : "
.. The importance though of scriptures, not so much as a religious document, but what, .. as a guide to understanding a lot of the cultures and politics of the world with which the west interacts?
A : "Yes. Actually, following 9/11, .. I'll give you an anecdote. The English translations of the Koran skyrocketed because people were confused about Islam, they realised they didn't know much about Islam so their way to learn about Islam they thought was to go purchase the holy book of Islam, the Koran. Now that way to understand religions is something that we as religious-studies scholars recognise as quite problematic because the Koran for all kinds of reasons is not like the Bible and even the bible itself is not the entry point to really understand Christianity or Judaism for example. So we thought if we shape a course around helping to give people better tools to understand the complexities of religion, and do it again through this lens of scripture we'll both be able to provide people with information about scriptures, but we'll also be able to disrupt that assumption that you can learn about a religion through its scriptural texts."
< .. >
"What we're really promoting through the course is challenging the ways people think about religion, < .... > The second is that religions evolve and change. they are not static entities, they evolve and change as living traditions that grow out of and respond to different political, social, cultural and historic dynamics, and then the third is that religions are embedded in all dimensions of human experience and they can't be isolated in the practice of ritual expression or frameworks of belief as though those experiences are somehow devoid from the political cultural and social context of the(?adherence?)
[ Me : .. Thus making it not clear if 'religion' is something to delve into like a 'dummies guide' in how to deal with "political, social, and cultural change" (like, "when all else fails read the instructions"), or whether it is a creed to hold in front like a guiding light. A subtle distinction perhaps, and one that is much blurred by the distinction between the religious and the theological [check the wikipedia here too], but it seems to me to be a good sign when a professor of theological studies is advocating elevating 'the book' to the self-help section of the shop rather than the shelves of history, philosophy and religious studies. Eventually, as cognitive science develops to the point where it can offer real practical help on dealing with adversity without lining the pockets of Big Pharma, we hope it will be consigned to the fiction or mythology shelves, along with the other ancient gods of Greece and Rome, the latter of which two thousand years ago had already sussed Christianity as "a desperate sort of cult carried to extravagant lengths", since when it has caused a lot of misery, particularly in "the most catholic country in Europe" (link). [Note also the comment in the interview (above /listen) about its popularity in (third world) countries of the southern hemisphere.] Time it elevated itself to more effectively helping the poor, .. say by demonstrating how it is possible to squeeze the top one percent of the world's money through the eye of the tax department, thereby trumping courses like Harvard, and issuing a challenge to "The Donald" to be an eponym of note as well as a pathological narcissist. Throwing down the gauntlet and calling the Pope "disgraceful"? indeed, ... Let's see if he can show the Pope how it's done. Does he have a secret agenda when he says about making America great again - or is he just intent on showing what big hands he's got? That'll shock the Republic if he can pull that one off. Or will he be using those hands to lay bricks along the Mexican Border?]
Q. [9:26] " Very striking parallels drawn between what Paul was writing about two thousand years ago, .. debates over capital punishment, sexuality, the role of women in religious leadership. So we're really talking here about ancient texts with some very contemporary relevance." (?)Yes? So what are the other ways? (Building that wall - with the help of the Ku Klux Klan?) What does the "lens of scripture" have to say to 'The Donald' on that one?
A : "Those texts are living texts for people of faith today, and they look to those texts to help them discern the fundamental questions of meaning and challenging questions of understanding that we face in our world today. [Me : so the more two thousand years change, the more things stay the same?] and the incredible array of the ways that those traditions can be interpreted. It's a fascinating entry if you will into fundamental questions of human meaning, religion becomes then one way to look into this slice of life around human agency." [Professor Diane Moore is director of Harvard University's religious literacy project.]
To me, this "lens of scripture" sounds a lot like Plate Tectonics in the way it can be all things to all people according to how the goalposts are shifted, which is exactly what ISIS is doing (as well as Plate Tectonics). Looks like Christianity is recognising the need to do the same. In fact shifting the goalposts is the subtext to the whole of the human condition, as George Orwell remarked decades ago :-
“We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right.”It's just a question of how you do it. Without a more committed response by the public itself towards the representatives of 'religion' beyond that of comedy (?) [share them around] and educational programs like Harvard's [a start at least] we are destined to another two-thousand years of reprehensible things done in its name [right now mostly by Islam]. Sure, they might be done anyway, but at least miscreants would be responsible for their actions. There wouldn't be a cassock to hide behind, .. or a passing of the buck on to 'im upstairs" or his 'Sacred Congregation', .. or to Mohammed in his cave, .. or to six-to-eight-year-old children. ["Look everybody, what they're making me do."]
Anyone got a clue why the Catholic Church would deem children of six-to-eight years old as capable of very much at all, .. much less participating in Mumbo Jumbo's ecclesiastical affairs in working out which bread is which, or which side of it is 'buttered' by the Grace of God?
And why women should want a bar of patriarchal theocracy other than to destroy it from within is absolutely beyond me. If ever they wanted to carve out a spiritual niche for themselves according to feminist aspirations surely they can do better for the greater good than trying to grab some of that corruption of the so-called Meaning of Life according to that patriarchal outfit. It doesn't seem to be serving them very well. Is there a Womens' Business enterprise comparable to thatfella and his gang ("The Sacred Congregation of the Discipline of the Sacrament")? The blood of Christ and the Crucifiction? What about the blood at the gate of life, ..smeared all over a clearing in the forest under a full moon? Is there much of a difference? Is there a book? Are there 'interpretations' for guidance? And would they be relevant in our hour of need? Considering there are twenty-four of them we have to cope with every day, which one is the Holey Moley (in this Russian Roulette of life)?
Q : "What do you mean by that?"
A : "Well I'll tell you. In terms of the Muslim ban, the so-called Muslim ban in the US we have seven countries, citizens of which are not permitted to come into the US and obviously there's a debate about this so that the courts have intervened and the ban is on and the ban is off. It just occurred to me that many Arab and Muslim countries have a similar[Omar Saif Ghobash United Arab Emirates ambassador to Russia.]
but unpublicised ban on pretty much the same countries so it is not so straightforward for us to say, well, look at the west, the west is sort of targeting Muslims when we ourselves are, .. you know we are not particularly welcoming of sort of long-bearded fellows in their twenties coming from Syria or Iraq or Tunisia which seems to have the highest proportions of ISIS members in the Arab world, so we're all wary of healthy young men with anger. This is a real issue for all of us. "
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jan/15/omar-saif-ghobash-interview-letters-to-a-young-muslim-interview [Support 'free' and fearless journalism wherever you find it.]
[Islam's pain :- "Living texts for people of faith". What can you say? Some muvvas do 'ave 'em?]