Imbolc Valentine Moon
Let’s switch off health. I know, I know. You want more picc lines and coughing and fatigue, but I wanna talk about a different sort of illness. The Roman Catholic Church.
Been thinking about Lord Acton, the power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely guy. That’s not quite right. Here’s my version: if you think you have power, it corrupts you; if you think you have absolute power, it will corrupt you absolutely. Ideologues may not always have real political or economic power, but they think they have a power more important than either one, The Truth. Imagine a tyrannical father. A domineering mother. Donald Trump. The Shining Path. The KKK. Proud Boys.
I understand the allure, having veered off in that direction more than once in my life. If you know The Truth, your ends always justify your means. It just follows, doesn’t it? My ends, which are true, guide my method of achieving them. Ipso facto. QED. If there is some wreckage here and there, perhaps collateral damage, well, we’re still headed in the right direction and that’s what counts, right?
Max Weber, the father of sociology, famously defined religion as the rationalization of charisma. You have a dynamic, compelling leader, Jesus, Mohamed, who catalyze a movement. But these leaders die (or, in some cases, are killed) and those who surrounded them take over, vowing to keep the movement alive in the spirit of the fallen one. As you get further and further away from the death of the charismatic leader, bureaucracy begins to take over, making policies, setting rules, organizing everything. If you think about it, you’ve probably since this in action on a smaller scale at a business, a school, in sports.
Enter church councils, church fathers (see?), and, worst of all, theologians. The RCC believes it is the direct lineage of those early followers of Jesus, the followers who vow to keep the movement alive, in Weberian terms. They believe in particular that the bishops of the church are in direct line to the apostle Peter, containing his mystical power to define and shape the lives of Christians. All Christians.
This is a recipe for hubris. But, that’s not all. Celibacy. Celibacy became the mark of those who set aside their lives for service to the Church. Just how that happened isn’t important here, but it did happen and it acquired the theological imprimatur of the Church.
Now put celibacy together with the view that the church, whom the priest divinely represents through the sacrament of ordination, has the right, no, the responsibility to say what is good and what is bad in the lives of parishioners. In each congregation, each gathering of the body of Christ under the Roman Catholic rubric, the priest represents the power of Jesus, mediated through the apostle Peter who ordained bishops who then ordain priests.
I’m not trying to be subtle here. This ideology, for that’s all a theology is, a sanctified ideology, put absolute power over the lives of men, women, and children in the hands of men who agreed to never have sex. (Yes, nuns, but we’re sticking with the theme here.)
Here’s my main point. This has been true since Roman times. In other words, the same toxic combination of celibacy and absolute power has existed in Catholic congregations and monastic groups since the early 100’s a.d. That means, at least to me, that the same abuses of that power, driven in large part by the notion of celibacy, have existed since then. In other words, this moment is not an aberration, not a modern era problem, but a systemic one, an organized system of depravity and secrecy calling itself a Christian church.
I believe this questions the fundaments of the Catholic claims, not only questions, but destroys them. It needs a wholesale change: married priests, women priests, acceptance of lgbtq+ folk. Or, it needs to be torn out root and branch and burned on the bonfire of Apostolic vanity.