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Is the Catholic Church a Force for Good?

Church

Western civilization is greatly indebted to the Catholic Church. Modern historical studies—such as Dr. Thomas E. Woods' How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilizationhave demonstrated with force and clarity that it is the Catholic Church who has been the primary driving force behind the development and progress of the civilized world.

The Church has provided innumerable 'goods' for the benefit of humanity. Nonetheless, modern critics assert that no amount of good could outweigh the evil the Church has allegedly committed in contrast. Talk is cheap, however. We must look at the evidence. Has the Church really been an irreconcilable force for evil in the world?

Big Questions

There are three principal issues repeatedly brought to the table by adversaries of the Catholic Church: religious violence, priest scandals, and ill-treatment of women. But do these objections hold water when their integrity is put to the test? And are they enough to render the Church "no good" in our final analysis?

Now let's be clear: throughout the duration of this piece, I am not seeking in any way to deny or defend the sins of any Catholic individual or group. The chief question I propose is not whether there have been malicious members of the Catholic Church (there obviously have been). The question at hand is whether the Catholic Church as a whole ought to be considered a force for evil.

Let's consider briefly the general assertion that religion is the chief cause of violence in the world. This position, in fact, is not supported by the data. Joe Heschmeyer has shown this quite articulately in his recent article at Strange Notions, Is Religion Responsible For The World's Violence?

Evil members of a Church do not necessarily indicate an evil Church. One must be cautious; because this line of reasoning commits an error in logic called the fallacy of composition. We would not say, "the elephant consists of tiny parts, therefore the elephant is tiny"; and thus, we should not say that the Church is sinister because she has sinister members. The parts do not necessarily define the whole; and in the case of the Catholic Church, the parts justify the whole. As G.K Chesterton writes in The Everlasting Man:

“The Church is justified, not because her children do not sin, but because they do. ”

Reclaiming The Homeland

Sound historical scholarship has shown—contrary to what modern textbooks might falsely suggest—that the Crusades ought not be considered such a black mark in Catholic Church history. Dr. Diane Moczar summarizes the facts in her historical defense, Seven Lies About Catholic History:

"To recapitulate: the Crusades were a response to unprovoked Muslim aggression against Christian states, as well as a response to the enslavement, killing and persecution of countless followers of Christ. They were not examples of European colonialism or imperialism, which lay far in the future, nor were they intended to convert anybody; they were a military answer to a military attack." (p.73)

Moczar demonstrates that the Crusades were largely just (see CCC 2302-2317) and with far-reaching benefits for the people of Europe. She cites historian Louis Bréhier, who also concludes:

"It would be unjust to condemn out of hand these five centuries of heroism which had such fertile results for the history of Europe and which left behind in the consciences of modern peoples a certain ideal of generosity and a taste for sacrifice on behalf of noble causes....." (from The Crusades: The Victory Of Idealism)

Steven Weidenkopf, a lecturer of Church History at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College, has also clarified the true nature of the Crusades in his footnote-laden treatise, The Glory of the Crusades. Weidenkopf's title is bold, but his analysis is fair and evidence based. In his scholarly assessment of the Crusades he carefully notes:

"To recognize the glory of the Crusades means not to whitewash what was ignoble about them, but to call attention to the import in the life of the Church" (p.14).

Moczar likewise recognizes that not all things regarding the Crusades are to be "glorified." Nonetheless, both Moczar and Weidenkopf decisively demonstrate in their research that, by and large, the Catholic Church's participation in the Crusades ought not be considered evil nor unjust.

Handling Heretics

The real story of the Inquisition is—like the Crusades—not congruent with what one finds in today's error-ridden history textbooks.

Statistics regarding the total number of Inquisition-related deaths have been shamefully embellished by antagonists of the Church, with some asserting numbers in the millions. Though the precise numbers are foggy, recent scholarship has put the number of deaths at just a few thousand over several centuries.

Modern research by historical experts, such as Henry Kamen, Benzion Netanyahu and Edward M. Peters, have demonstrated that the Inquisition was not nearly as harsh or cruel as popularly suggested. Overturning traditional views, they have shown that the Church courts were often both patient and fair in their treatment of heretics. In fact, Church officials were so reasonable in the Inquisition process that heretics in the secular courts (heresy was also a political concern) would blaspheme with hope that they might be transferred to the more merciful Church inquisitors.

This is not to deny, however, that the actions of some Christians were unjust. Moczar concludes:

"Were there cruel inquisitors in some places? Of course. Were methods of interrogation distasteful to modern sensibilities? Sure... [But] given its formidable task of guarding the purity of the Faith in Christian souls, however, the overall record of the Inquisition in dealing with heresy is not only defensible but admirable." (p. 102)

Celibacy Isn't The Problem

This is not a defense of the guilty. It is a defense of the unjustly accused and stigmatized. The data is clear—celibate Catholic priests are no more likely to abuse children than clergy from any another denomination, or even teachers and other secular adult leadership. As Ernie Allen, the president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, has stated:

“We don’t see the Catholic Church as a hotbed of this [abuse] or a place that has a bigger problem than anyone else." (Pat Wingert, “Mean Men,” Newsweek, April 8, 2010)

Professor of psychology, Dr. Thomas Plante, agrees with Allen:

"Catholic clergy aren’t more likely to abuse children than other clergy or men in general." ("Do the Right Thing", psychologytoday.com, March 24, 2010)

Celibacy is not the problem—and Dr. Chris Kaczor has made this decisively clear. He summarizes the evidence with this statement:

"The evidence is substantial and confirmed by psychologists, researchers, and insurance companies: Priestly celibacy is not a risk factor for the sexual abuse of children." ("Celibacy Isn't The Problem", This Rock, vol. 21, 5)

In his vastly informative book, The Seven Big Myths about the Catholic Church, Dr. Kaczor's research conclusively disarms the celibacy-leads-to-pedophilia myth and puts it to rest once and for all.

Indeed, Catholic clergy should be held to a higher standard—the highest standard in fact—but it is unreasonable to condemn the whole priesthood because of the sins of an ultra-minority. There is simply no good reason to fear Catholic clergy any more than other religious leaders, teachers or the general population. I say without hesitation (and as a dad) that Catholic priests, by and large, are among the most trustworthy citizens of our society today. And the data agrees.

"She Shall Be Called Woman"

Finally, is the Church's view on women really immoral? Let's begin with the fiery issue of "female ordination": Why aren't women allowed to serve as priests in the Church? Is this not a violation of gender equality?

Properly understood, this is a matter of the Church's incapability to ordain women due to what a Catholic priest is. It is the nature of the priesthood that makes female ordination an impossibility. These key facts may help to underline this point:

I) Jesus called twelve apostles, all of whom were men (Mk 3:14-19; Lk 6:12-16)

II) The twelve apostles ordained men only to succeed them (1 Tim 3:1-13; 2 Tim 1:6; Titus 1:5-9)

III) These men were given a special gift and authority to serve in persona Christi or "in the person of Christ" (see 2 Cor 2:10; John 20:21-23)

IV) Christ was a man; therefore those who serve "in his person" must also be men.

Therefore a female Catholic priest is about as possible as a male mother. The nature of the Catholic priesthood renders female ordination impossible, just as male mothers are an impossibility because of the nature of motherhood. Indeed, male-only ordination is discriminatory; but this is not a matter of preference but of deference to the "nature of things"; for it is the nature of nature to discriminate.

St. John Paul the Great understood this with profound clarity:

"The Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and...this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful" (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis 4).

What was Jesus' attitude toward women? Once again, we turn to the words of St. John Paul the Great:

"When it comes to setting women free from every kind of exploitation and domination, the gospel contains an ever relevant message that goes back to the attitude of Jesus Christ himself. Transcending the established norms of his own culture, Jesus treated women with openness, respect, acceptance, and tenderness. In this way he honored the dignity that women have always possessed according to God's plan and in his love." (Letter to Women, 3)

Like her Founder, the Catholic Church reveres 'woman' and attributes to her the highest dignity. The mother of Christ, for example, has been widely revered by Catholics from the earliest centuries of Christianity as the mother of all Christians (Jn 19:26-27). No person in history—except perhaps Christ Himself—has received more love and honour than Mary. The Church has also named four female Doctors of the Church—Sts. Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, Therese of Lisieux and Hildegard of Bingen—and recognized them for their extraordinary influence on the life of the universal Christian Church.

And is it not true that women largely tend to avoid places where they are unfairly discriminated against and patronized? If the Catholic Church really treated women unjustly, would we not expect a female aversion to the Church? Surely. But this is not what we find.

Notre Dame theologian, Catherine Lacugna, states:

85% of those responsible for altar preparation are women. Over 80% of the CCD (religious formation) teachers and sponsors of the catechumenate are women. Over 75% of adult Bible study leaders or participants are women. Over 70% of those who are active in parish renewal and spiritual growth are women, and over 80% of those who join prayer groups are women. Nearly 60% of those involved with youth groups and recreational activities are women. (Catholic Women As Ministers And Theologians, 240)

Women are not afraid of the Church. They are attracted to it. Why? Because she fights for the beauty and dignity of femininity as no other institution on earth does.

Referring to the words of his saintly predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI said these words in praise of women:

"As my venerable and dear Predecessor John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem: "The Church gives thanks for each and every woman.... The Church gives thanks for all the manifestations of the feminine 'genius' which have appeared in the course of history, in the midst of all peoples and nations." (General Audience, February 14, 2007)

Final Thoughts

In the final analysis, the Catholic Church is unquestionably a force for good in the world—indeed a force for greatness. She always has been; and because the gates of hell can never prevail against her, she always will be. We have Christ's promise.

Yes, the Church has proven herself to be the lifeline of our civilization—and without her—humanity will fail to thrive. As the great defender of the Church, Hilaire Belloc, concluded in Survivals And New Arrivals:

"If the influence of the Church declines, civilization will decline with it... Our civilization is as much a product of the Catholic Church as the vine is the product of a particular climate. Take the vine to another climate and it will die."

May God continue to bless His Church for goodness' sake.
 
 
(Image credit: New York News)

Matt Nelson

Written by

Matt holds a B.Ed from the University of Regina and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto, Canada. After several years of skepticism, he returned to the Catholic Church in 2010. Now alongside his chiropractic practice, Matt is a speaker and writer for FaceToFace Ministries and Religious Education Coordinator at Christ the King Parish. He currently resides in Shaunavon, SK, with his wife, Amanda, and their daughter, Anna. Follow Matt through his blog at ReasonableCatholic.com.

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  • William Davis

    Yes, the Church has proven herself to be the lifeline of our civilization—and without her—humanity will fail to thrive.

    I find this claim highly dubious. One obvious example is Japan, 0.4% Catholic (one of the lowest percentages of Catholics in the world, and less than 1% total Christian). On average Japan has one of the lowest crime rates:

    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2014/01/25/editorials/crime-rate-dips-again-in-japan/#.VVn0WvlVhBd

    Crime rates in general depend on both laws and the morality of a people (so 3rd world countries have law crime rates because of relative lawlessness), and Japan does well by any standard, but intentional homicide is a great metric. Japan is 4th in the entire world for lowest murder rate.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

    Japans citizens also have the longest lifespan of any country in the whole world for both men AND women. The average lifespan for a man is 85 and a women is 87.

    Japan is also a leader in world commerce, industry, and technology. Brands like Honda, Toyota, Hitachi, and Mitsubishi come to mind:

    http://blog.btrax.com/en/2015/04/14/2015-top-10-largest-japanese-companies-in-the-world/

    • Japan is a good counter-example.

      Yes, the Church has proven herself to be the lifeline of our civilization—and without her—humanity will fail to thrive.

      Sounds like a hypothesis I'd like to test. Everyone should give up Catholicism and see what happens!

      • William Davis

        Good point. You have found a reason to give up the faith in the name of science ;P
        Personally I find my life is much better without Christianity, but that won't necessarily be true for everyone. If you don't really believe in Christianity, you are better off without it. The cognitive dissonance it creates (trying to believe something you just don't) can be quite damaging mentally to some people.

        • Phil

          Hey William,

          Unfortunately we are already finding out what happens when people start giving up true Christian faith--we get the past ~100 years. Make no mistake about it, as soon as we begin to turn back to God as individuals, nations, and as a world, we will begin to head away from the darkness we have come upon and that we continue to head towards. But we know the end of the story, God has already triumphed with his only Son on the cross, so we need only to accept the gift of his great love, peace, and joy into our hearts! We are invited to the heavenly banquet, but will we refuse the invitation?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I think it would be near impossible to successfully argue that we have
            been heading the proper direction these past 50-100 years.

            Since 1915:

            1) We have had a general reduction in violence. 1st world powers have not fought a war against each other in over 60 years.

            2) Standard of living has gone up

            3) Much better opportunities for minorities

            4) Much better opportunities for women

            5) Eradicated several major diseases

            6) Overall middle class mobility has increased.

            Not sure how we have gotten worse since 1915.

          • Alexandra

            The Atomic Bomb dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima and the Holocaust.

          • William Davis

            With great technological power comes great responsibility. Let's hope we have the moral constitution to avoid causing our own extinction. It keeps getting easier and easier.
            Of course, the existence of nuclear weapons is one HUGE reason why the world's superpowers have not gone to war since their invention. Let's hope we stay sane enough to continue that trend.
            In the mean time, I think we are safe in reducing our nuclear stockpile to a sufficient supply to destroy the world once. I think the world has enough to do this 10 times over right now. The sun never did belong on the earth (hydrogen bombs basically recreate the sun on the earth for a moment...)

          • Pofarmer

            The Atomic Bombs probably saved lives according to the U.S. Military experts who were planning the invasion of Japan. The Holocaust was the culmination of a long history if antisemitism.

          • Alexandra

            Yes. And the result is that by the use of various means and reasons post 1915 there have mass killings in short periods of time on a scale rarely if ever witnessed before. Over 60,000 people killed in one day in Hiroshima. In other words the option is now available.

          • Miguel Adolfo.

            The US military experts were involved in the usage of atomic weapons and weren't going to speak against it; there was antisemitism before, but it didn't get as virulent before, and the nazi genocide was at large economically motivated, and also affected slavs, romani, homosexuals and political opponents. Sure, homosexuals had been targeted before, but normaly, religious antisemitism left open the option of conversion; with nazis there weren't optinos but death, bevause they wanted "vital space", a space mucho more economical than merely geografical. And those jews who had converted to christianism were targeted all the same.

            Indeed, the fever of antisemitism which engulfed Europe then, was a consecuence of the economic crisis started with the "Crack of Wall Street" in 1929. If antisemitis would have been so "continuous", no jew should have been left alive to succumb to the "final solution" after so many centuries of hard persecution. Which existed, but was different -even if cruel-.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Those are events. We are talking about Trends. There has been a great reduction in violence over the past 100 years. More so over the past 50.

          • Alexandra

            My point is we now have the atomic bomb as an option. That is shift in society.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Nobody has used one since WW2. Arguably, the existence of atomic weapons has prevented wars between nations that possess them. The existence of atomic weapons is not a trend or statement about how society has gotten better or worse since 1915.

            Or are you saying that the explosion of post-enlightenment science caused us to develop unimaginably powerful weapons, and we would be better off if the Church was actively suppressing free thought and science? Notice how traditional Catholics form their own schools such as Christendom and Ave Maria, in which students are not encouraged to learn about non-Catholic perspectives.

            Who do we most fear using atomic weapons? Religious extremists.

          • Mila

            "Who do we most fear using atomic weapons? Religious extremists."

            Who did we most fear using atomic weapons before Islamic terrorist? Non-religious extremists.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            From the collapse of the Soviet Union to 9/11 I do not think anybody was in fear of an atomic apocalypse.

            Nationalism and totalitarian dictatorships are very similar to religious extremism. They are dogmatic and fanatical.

            Liberal democracies founded on enlightenment principles are the least likely to go to war with each other. Theocracies, dictatorships, and other forms of totalitarian governance are most likely to go to war.

          • Miguel Adolfo.

            Liberal democracies founded on enlightenment principles can go to war for economic or geopolitic goals as much as any other form of society. In fact, in Lybia and Siria those democracies supported wars to deffend liberty, democracy and human rights, even if the conflicts were totally prone -as any other- to violate more human rights- and accepted the help as ground forces from groups like what is currently known as Islamic State.

            French Fisrt Reublic perfomred the first genocide of modernity. Yes, the catholic farmers had rebelled against the liberal goverment, but that liberal goverment took the decision to perform an antecedent of the "final solution", not sparing anyone.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You and I have different ideas of liberal democracy.

          • Not really. I would say that we were as assured, as one could be by Mutually Assured Destruction, that as long as the other side was acting rationally, they would not use the weapons.

            I would have been much more afraid of George W. Bush on the red button than Joseph Stalin. All Stalin had was his drab empire and power structure. I could not think of any circumstance in which it would further his interests to push the button. With Dubya, on the other hand, one could quite easily see how he could think destroying the world was necessary for God's plan to unfold.

          • Mila

            Denial?
            Why would someone be less afraid of a president who actually killed millions of his own people?
            "A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." Stalin

          • For the reason I outlined above. I would be much less afraid Stalin would pull the button because, above all, he valued power and his own life, and did not believe in any afterlife. He was no idiot and knew that within minutes of pushing the button he would lose all of his power and most likely his life.

            By contrast, I would be more concerned by anyone who thought they would live forever in heaven because they believed in Jesus, who had access to the button.

            Your move here is to go to Mao not Stalin, who openly boasted that he wanted a nuclear war, because unlike the US and Russia, there were enough Chinese to survive and rebuild after a nuclear holocaust.

          • Mila

            He valued so much his own life but none of the millions of his own people he killed. Whether he used a nuclear weapon or not is irrelevant, his own power made him kill millions of his own people.
            I would fear someone who has actually demonstrated to believe so much in his own self to be a god rather than someone who actually thought of the consequences of his actions in the afterlife.
            My whole point is though that while atheists try to disassociate themselves from atheists tyrants who actually persecuted religion, such as Stalin, they simultaneously try to associate every evil to religion. Both are ridiculous. It is the fallen nature of man, whether they use religious reasons or non-religious reasons, that makes them commit atrocities.

          • No, the whole point is who would you trust never to press the button? Someone who believes that no matter what they, and all the righteous will live forever in heaven thanks to God's perfect justice? Or someone who thinks this life is all they get.

            The fear with nuclear weapons is that someone insane or religious gets a hold of them, because there can never be a rational justification for their use, under MAD.

          • Pofarmer

            "The fallen nature of Man" is nonsense. There is no such thing. Look at history. As time goes by we become more moral, more egalitarian. Science improves, medicine improves, life improves. In General, we are social animals operating in complex social structures, and sometimes it shows.

          • Mila

            I think you and I live in totally different worlds.
            I don't know, I don't value scientific progress or medicine improvements with sainthood.
            I also think that those are not indicators of whether we live in a moral society or not. One can use technology in a good way and save people, yet another person can use the same technology to kill people.

          • Pofarmer

            Tell ya what. You Live your life for one week with only the things supplied by religion, and I'll live mine with only the things supplied by science. Let's see who makes it out the door Monday morning.

            But, yes, in many ways we do live in different worlds. I live in one that values evidence over faith. Truth over dogma, love over obedience.

          • Mila

            "But, yes, in many ways we do live in different worlds. I live in one that values evidence over faith. Truth over dogma, love over obedience."

            So you agree that scientific discoveries, technological advancement are not indicators of morality but that Truth and love are?

            Do we have any evidence that the person we love and we want to marry is not going to harm us until we die? We don't. We actually take a leap of faith. And Truth over dogma. Truth is dogmatic. It's the ultimate authority setting up all principles.

          • Pofarmer

            "Truth is dogmatic."

            No, from a scientific perspective this is incorrect. Truth is always provisional, open to new discoveries. To set up an idea or principal as the ultimate truth is to quash new discoveries.

          • Mila

            "Truth is always provisional, open to new discoveries"
            Then that means that the previously assumed "truth" wasn't really true after all.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Correct. We leave certainty to those inclined to dogmatism.

          • Mila

            "Correct. We leave certainty to those inclined to dogmatism."
            Then I should assume you are never certain of anything?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I am 100% certain that certain mathematical theorems are true if we grant the background axioms and logic are true.

            I am largely certain that well-evidenced scientific theories are descriptive to what they are trying to describe.

            I am fairly certain (though not 100%) that an Omni-all deity does not exist. I am also fairly certain that if the philosophical God did exist he would not be the Abrahamic God.

            I am certain that certainty is largely the realm of dogmatists, because it is tautological. Dogmatists are by definition, certain about things that they have no right to be certain about.

          • Mila

            "We leave certainty to those inclined to dogmatism."

          • Ignatius Reilly

            And outside of mathematics I am not 100% certain of anything. Nothing that I have stated in my post fits the criteria of dogma. It is so much different from beliefs say on the Trinity and transubstantiation and original sin.
            So I'm not really sure what you are getting at here.

          • Pofarmer

            Not exactly. It just means we came up with a better explanation than we had before.

          • Mila

            It always amazes me how afraid of Truth people are.
            A better explanation of something doesn't make that something untrue. I'm sure we know so much more about gravity today and its consequences, etc., but that doesn't make Newton's discovery false. The original discovery was true.

          • Pofarmer

            The original discovery of Gravity was good, as far as it goes, but it takes General Relativity to make it all work out. And General Relativity gets modified by special Relativity. Newtons discovery wasn't false, but it wasn't the last word on the subject, either.

          • William Davis

            Newton didn't discover gravity, he modeled it mathematically (might not seem like a difference to you, but it is to a science nerd :). Even apes discover gravity when they drop a rock. Newton's model was just less accurate than Einstein's, so you are right otherwise.

          • Mila

            Yet his discovery was not proven untrue by later explanations of gravity. That's really the point. :)

          • Ignatius Reilly

            My whole point is though that while atheists try to disassociate themselves from atheists tyrants who actually persecuted religion, such as Stalin, they simultaneously try to associate every evil to religion. Both are ridiculous. It is the fallen nature of man, whether they use religious reasons or non-religious reasons, that makes them commit atrocities.

            Atheism is a statement about one thing. Belief or lack of belief in God. Atheism is not responsible for Stalin. My philosophy of governance is probably closest to classical liberalism. This belief system is the least likely to ever cause atrocities. This post-enlightenment philosophy has done more good for modern society than the Catholic Church has.

            Religious belief has a tendency to be both dogmatic and fanatical. Totalitarian governments are also dogmatic and fanatical. They are two sides of the same coin.

            When man's fallen nature is causing him to kill only those of a different religious persuasion, it seems his religious views are also playing a part.

          • Mila

            "This post-enlightenment philosophy has done more good for modern society than the Catholic Church has. "
            That's really debatable.

            And if you want to say that atheism is not responsible for Stalin who professed not to believe in God; who persecuted those who did. Precisely because Stalin didn't believe in a higher power he thought he was the ultimate power. A tendency we have seen in many of the self-profess atheists tyrants we've had during the last century. The tyrants who proclaimed the atheists' statement of disbelief in a deity and actively and forcefully exercised their belief in a lack of God by making themselves God.

            Atheists governments are dogmatic in their own made-up dogma and quite fanatical. The problem with them is that by not having any religious dogma they invent their own which are actually bad dogmas.

            We can say that there has been bad atheists and religious leaders and attribute their bad actions on the person and not on the dogma unless you can tell me errors in the dogma of Christianity.

            "When man's fallen nature is causing him to kill only those of a different religious persuasion, it seems his religious views are also playing a part."
            Yes, not all religions abide by "thou shall not kill" and "Love your neighbor as your own self".
            The irony is that even if the non-religious folks didn't abide by those simple moral paradigms that are the foundation of Christianity they too would be tyrants.

          • Pofarmer

            You've refuted yourself in your own post. That's funny.

          • Mila

            No, because I am not saying that Christian dogmas are bad but that man made principles are. The atheists has a tendency to create his/her own set of principles to which he acts on. Those are non-religious dogmas. The person claiming to be religious but deviates from those set of principles is also creating his/her own dogma.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            And how is dogma different from creating your own set of principles, while letting others also craft their set of principles?

          • Pofarmer

            I think you would first have to show that Christian Dogmas aren't man made. But at least you do recognize that most if these totalitarian dictatorships set upmwhat effectively amounts to a religious cult around the leaders.

          • Mila

            "But at least you do recognize that most if these totalitarian dictatorships set upmwhat effectively amounts to a religious cult around the leaders."
            That's not really what I said at all. I am saying that the same motivation that so-called religious leaders claim when committing atrocities are the same ones atheists extremists make. Both are not really religious dogmas but each own person's set of principles. Most atheists tyrants were motivated by their own set of principles that deny God. The same for false religious adherents. The are motivated by their won set of principles that deny God.

          • Pofarmer

            Heads I win, tails you lose, combined with a No True Scotsman. Impressive,

          • Ignatius Reilly

            And if you want to say that atheism is not responsible for Stalin who professed not to believe in God; who persecuted those who did. Precisely because Stalin didn't believe in a higher power he thought he was the ultimate power. A tendency we have seen in many of the self-profess atheists tyrants we've had during the last century. The tyrants who proclaimed the atheists' statement of disbelief in a deity and actively and forcefully exercised their belief in a lack of God by making themselves God.

            I am really not sure what you are getting at here. The opposite of atheism is theism. Neither one necessarily has anything to do with political philosophy or ethics. Stalin was a totalitarian. Most atheists I run across are big fans of liberal democracy.

            Atheists governments are dogmatic in their own made-up dogma and quite fanatical. The problem with them is that by not having any religious dogma they invent their own which are actually bad dogmas. The same can be said for those who claim to be of a certain religion but do not abide by its dogmas.

            I am an atheist. The form of government that I prefer is liberal democracy. What is dogmatic about that?

            You are confusing atheism with violent communism. Communism has violent tendencies for the same reasons religions have violent tendencies. Dogmatism and fanaticism.

            It is interesting that you prove one of my points, by insisting that religious people must obey the right dogmas.

            We can say that there has been bad atheists and religious leaders and attribute their bad actions on the person and not on the dogma unless you can tell me errors in the dogma of Christianity.

            The error is in having dogma.
            Considering the dogmas pertain to a being that doesn't likely exist, I think it is safe to say that they are all wrong.

          • Mila

            "You are confusing atheism with violent communism. Communism has violent tendencies for the same reasons religions have violent tendencies. Dogmatism and fanaticism."
            What are the dogmas of Christianity that are violent?
            Thou shall not kill?

          • Pofarmer

            Hate your family? Don't suffer a witch to live? Even Jesus said "i am coming back not with peace but with a sword". Etc, etc. there are all kinds of passages used to condone violence.

          • Mila

            You know He said that to combat evil right? You know He said that to teach us that Truth will usually put us in conflict with everyone including our closest ones?
            The price of truth is usually marked with conflict. That is why most cowards are afraid of Truth and love relativism.
            Hate your family? Where is that teaching? The 5th commandment perhaps? "Honor your father and your mother?"

          • Pofarmer

            Luke 14:26

          • Mila

            So in other words your own theological knowledge of the verse is the dogma? Just like those who claimed to be so religious but committed atrocities. They took those verses so literal, just like most atheists I encountered.
            That means nobody is your soul mate but only God is. The law of Christ does not allow us to hate even our enemies, much less our parents. But the meaning of the text is, that we must be in that disposition of soul, as to be willing to renounce, and part with every thing, how near or dear it may be to us, that would keep us from following Christ.
            Again what teachings, but this time not your own interpretation of texts but actual teachings.

          • Pofarmer

            Tell me Mila. What specific teachings led to the Magdalene laundries?

          • Mila

            None. None of the teachings of Christianity led to the Magdalene laundries or the myths around it.

          • Pofarmer

            Then, how did they exist run by Nuns and Priests with the approval of the Church?

          • Mila

            The same way many convents existed and exist today. Because they did and do a lot of good despite the very few who haven't.
            Now let me ask you the same question you asked me above. What specific teachings led to so-called Magdalene laundries?

          • Pofarmer

            The teachings that sex is sinful. The teachings that we are Fallen. The teaching of penance, among other things. The ideas that women are temptresses(O.k. that might not be a teaching, but it is popular. )

          • Mila

            With the exception that we are fallen, the others are not teachings but your idea of the teachings.

          • Mila

            Let me also tell you about a convent that I know very well. The nuns belong to a very active order here in Pennsylvania. That is not cloister. They actually focus on their vow of charity.
            Every day, they wake up very early, pray, then they pick up the poorest kids from the entire region and feed them and teach them English. They also teach them other basic skills. Then they drop them off at their homes along with a package of food. Then they go to the elderly and take homemade meals (many of us cook them), and accompany them. Most of them are lonely with not one family member visiting them. Then they go and do food drops at different houses. Then they collect the food donated to various Catholic Churches around the area. Then they go back to the convent and cook the meals for the next day and pray and go to sleep until the whole thing starts again the next day.
            These nuns who I know very well have been doing it for decades and are now in 58 countries. In other countries they also supply medicines.
            The selfless giving of these nuns puts some into perspective. These nuns go out and they are insulted, persecuted, mistreated, discriminated. Yet they continue to do what they do every day.
            I can also tell you about the cloister convent I visited in Alabama. These nuns pray day and night for everyone's soul. They don't go out of the convent and haven't gone out since they entered it. They have renounced to their lives completely and are living a life of sacrifice.
            Let me also tell you that when I came to this country with my family, we were so poor that we sold flowers on the streets of Manhattan. We lived on a $20 budget daily for 6 people. At times we didn't have to eat so we would go and ask the convent for food. Again those nuns fed us.
            My sister was alone in Manhattan and had lost her place to stay and was completely homeless. She was helped by a convent there in Manhattan. She actually ended up staying there for over a year until the entire family could come.
            Back in South America, I learned how to read, write, mathematics, science, languages, etc for free because of the charity of the Catholic Church.
            So as much as some would love to trash nuns. I know the other side of the story.
            All of these nuns do what they do because of Church's teachings and of course because they have a strength that only grace can bring.

          • Pofarmer

            That's all well and good and wonderful. But does it justify even one person dying in one of Mother Theresa's homes for the dying because none of the millions she collected went for Dr.s to do triage? Does it justify a position on contraception that CAUSES much of the poverty these Nuns are working against? I don't think so.

          • Mila

            It doesn't justify anything including you trying to associate the bad behavior of some people to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
            And let me tell you that the position on contraception does not cause poverty. That is the chant of feminist, et al who somehow want to say that poverty is linked to sex outside of marriage and rampant promiscuity. What they are for is sex without consequences and so they accuse the Church for causing poverty now? How ridiculous!
            And these nuns along with the entire Church have been helping the poor even before contraception en mass existed. So nope these nuns are not working against the myth that the lack of contraception causes poverty.
            Not to mention that these nuns are here in Pennsylvania where any 7 eleven sells contraceptives.

          • Pofarmer

            Interesting, the truth if what's going in in Argentina seems somewhat different than what you insinuated, and about what I expected.

            http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/aug/10/argentina-contraception-abortion-risks

          • Pofarmer

            So, no matter what, you are going to claim No True Scotsman, so this is pointless.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Luke Ch 12:

            49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

            Generally, it is not the dogmas themselves that are violent, but the belief that Christianity will divide the world and that Christians will be set up against the world leads to unfortunate outcomes. Combine this with the fact that Christians believe that the spread of heresy actually causes souls to forever burn in hell (the OP mentions this) and we have pump primed for violence against those who spread false beliefs.

            Thou shalt not kill male Jews is the basic idea of the commandment. The Bible is full of other unfortunate episodes of God commanding the Jewish people to kill and even commit genocide.

            The Old Testament law is not exactly what we would expect from an enlightened Deity passing down rules for his chosen people.

            One kills because of dogma. The dogma does not necessarily instruct the killing. The killing happens when the dogma is deemed worth killing for.

          • Mila

            I think someone here mentioned it before fundamentalism is a step away from atheism.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            That may be a pithy statement, but I see no reason to believe that it is true.
            What would a fundamentalist do when confronted with heresy? What would a Catholic do?
            If the Catholic Church wasn't fundamentalist, would there even be such a thing as heresy?

          • Alexandra

            All I'm saying is if you are evaluating good and bad post 1915 trends in society the development of atomic bomb is a consideration. So would something like the development of the Internet or the end of legal slavery.

          • William Davis

            In the right hands, powerful technology is a great force for good. In the wrong hands, it can quickly become a nightmare. Things are only going in one direction, so the more "right hands" the better.

            “Moore’s Law of Mad Science: Every eighteen months, the minimum IQ necessary to destroy the world drops by one point.”

            — Eliezer Yudkowsky

          • Miguel Adolfo.

            Nazism, Ex-Jugoeslavia, Rwanda... How long a chain of facts must go before it becomes a trend?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So none of these things would have happened, if we would have just all consecrated ourselves to Mary?

          • Miguel Adolfo.

            Ignatius I think you meant "1945"; "since 1945" major powers haven't fought directly against each other in a "central war". But there were the Korean and Vietnamese wars.

            Social, internal violence has increased in the last decades, even the last third of the XX century. Minorities have improved, but marginally. Middle class have moved, but often downside. Standars of living have gone down for many, even in the first world.

            I know it is an impossible discussion, and certainly In don't want to live like in the Middle ages, nor the Paleolithic, in sipte of so many "nature lovers" who claim life was better then. But still, even if we liberated ourselves from many of those problems, we have others, and several of those of the past are returning, precisely for a lack of ethical guidelines.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            We have different ethical guidelines than we did in the past, but this is not the same as a lack of ethical guidelines.
            The improvement in life for minorities has improved drastically in the last 100 years.
            Yes, standards of living do tend to go down after brutal recessions. They will rise with the economy.

          • Pofarmer

            The relivgious have been making the exact same arguments for two millenia. The world is going to Hell in a hand basket. Oh noes.

          • Chad Eberhart

            Christianity is a declension narrative (things must get worse before Jesus' return) so it often results in it's adherents selectively viewing history as always getting worse.

          • Pofarmer

            Look at that, I learned a new term! There are multiple parts to it, really. Eric Hoffer talks about it in "The True Believers." First you have the myth of the "Virtuous past", then you have the "decadent present" and then the "Glorious Future" if everyone only follows the precepts of whatever the proposed ideology is. It doesn't particularly have to be religious. You see the same thing in the Tea Party and March on Wallstreet movements. The neat thing about it, in a religious movement like Christianity, is that there is never an endgame. The Priests just keep continually moving the goalposts. No matter how good it gets, this is always the worst time ever. Even though childhood mortality has fallen exponentially in only 50 years, the rhetoric is about the "holocaust of Abortion" and "Survivors guilt" when it used to be 5 year old Children dying of fever and Polio and not an egg failing to implant.

          • You're just preaching now Phil and your church has been preaching this for 1800 years. It says the same stuff whether the threat be the Cathars, the Black Death, Martin Luther, Dan Brown, its own priests, or ISIS.

            Life goes on as if none of what you believe is true and we await the re-interpretation of events when, inevitably, the sky does not actually fall.

          • Phil

            Hey Brian,

            The main point was that moving away from Christianity in a general way (explicitly since the enlightenment) has bore a lot of bad fruit. Obvioisly, anyone is free to argue the alternative, though as I mentioned above I find it a difficult case to make.

            I think it is also very valid for the Christians, and especially the Church, to point out when humans are causing widespread suffering and unrest, because this is not of God. So when we see these things we have to look beneath the surface. And what do we see beneath the surface--a rotten tree. I will acknowledge that this may not be easy to see at first, and, sadly, it does usually take great calamities for people to realize what has happened.

          • William Davis

            No offense Phil, but I love history, and the more I learn of it, the happier I am to be alive right now as opposed to any other time in history. There will always be calamities, that's part of life, but there are far fewer calamities in my lifetime than there have been in most of human history. We are at least doing something right, but definitely not everything. We may have needed WWI and II to teach us that our bombs are now to big to wage major wars and survive. We'll see what the future holds, but I see no reason to be pessimistic unless we fail to stabilize our populations (stop exponential growth) and/or resolve our energy dependence on fossil fuels (this is a problem with or without climate change). I'll do what is in my limited power to make things as sunny as possible for my kids :)

          • Phil

            I guess the main point would be then that with proper Christian roots and if there had not been a general exaltation of the "goddess of reason" at the expense of true trust in God, WWI, WWII, Cold War, ISIS, and many of the other great calamities of the 20th century would not have happened.

            It may sound like a bold statement, but it really is not. The reason for this is if we understand what Christianity is, namely a relationship with Jesus, which brings about true peace and unity, both internally and externally. Now, this is not to have some idealistic view of humanity. The fact of the matter is we have a wounded nature, and hence sin. This means there will be suffering and unrest. But the more suffering and unrest people are causing, the more we have turned away from God.

          • William Davis

            The problem is that almost everyone involved in WWI and WWII in Europe were Christians.

            A census in May 1939, six years into the Nazi era[2] and incorporating the annexation of mostly Catholic Austria into Germany, indicates 54% considered themselves Protestant, (including non-denominational Christians) and 40% Catholic. 3.5% self-identified as "gottgläubig" (lit. "believers in god", often described as predominately creationist and deistic[3]), and 1.5% non-religious. Most members of the Nazi Party were Christians. Composed mostly by members of the Lutheran Evangelical tradition, members of the apostate Nazi-inspired Positive Christianity sect and some of the Catholic faith tradition respectively.

            I know you think these weren't real Christians, but that assumes it's actually possible to have a relationship with Jesus. Since I believe Jesus was just a man, it becomes obvious that belief in a person that is long dead is no defense against World Wars. Surely the Christians inside Nazi Germany could have stopped Hitler if they had put their mind too it. Almost everyone was at least a self-identified Christian.
            If you put yourself in my shoes, and believe Christianity isn't true and offers no protection from such things, isn't my desire to find something more effective (assuming it's possible) noble? I'd love to prevent another holocaust as much as the next guy :)

          • Pofarmer

            Also keep in mind, it was the vote of the Catholic bloc that put Hitler in Power.

          • Chad Eberhart

            Also, historically, if you look at the supporters of fascism it's mostly made up of the Catholic right. Traditional Catholicism fits hand-in-glove with fascism.

          • Pofarmer

            So there were no wars before WWI? Surely you are more intelligent than this. History didn't begin yesterday. Ever hear of, say, the 30 years war? It nearly depopulated parts of Europe. In fact, Europe was nearly constantly embroiled in some conflict or another since the end of the middle ages.

            "The fact of the matter is we have a wounded nature, and hence sin."

            No, dammit. NO WE DO NOT. As the esteemed Christopher Hitchens stated, "We are evolved primates, not fallen Angels."

            Also, how come the people causing the suffering and unrest very often think they are doing the will of God?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The principles of the enlightenment have caused a decrease in violence. Do liberal democracies wage war against each other?
            See 30 years war for a nice pre-enlightenment scuffle.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Voltaire from the Dover translation:

            There was never anything so gallant, so spruce, so brilliant, and so well-disposed as two armies. Trumpets, fifes, hautboys, drums, and cannon made music such as hell itself has never heard. The cannons first of all laid flat about six thousand men on each side; the muskets swept away from this best of all worlds nine of ten thousand ruffians who infested its surface. The bayonet was also sufficient reason for the death of several thousands.
            ....
            At length, while the two kings were causing Te Deum to be sung each in his own camp, Candide resolved to go and reason elsewhere on effects and causes. He passed over heaps of dead and dying, and first reached a neighboring village; it was in cinders, it was an Abare village which the Bulgarians had burnt according to the laws of war. Here old men covered with wounds, beheld their wives, hugging children to their bloody breasts, massacred before their faces; there, their daughters, disemboweled and breathing their last after having satisfied the natural wants of Bulgarian heroes; while others, half burnt in flames, begged to be dispatched.

            Sounds like Voltaire was anti-war.

            If you are going to accuse the enlightenment philosophers of causing untold harm, you are going to have to provide evidence. Quote things they wrote. Discuss their philosophy.

            Finally, enlightenment philosophers disagreed with themselves. They had different views. It isn't the Catholic church passing down definite statements on faith and morals. Is there a particular writer that you disagree with? I feel like you are getting your information on the enlightenment from Catholic caricature.

          • Lucretius

            In the West. You want to live in the contemporary West (maybe some other places). ;-)

            I honestly don't think everything is so much better today in the entire world (vs. just the West) than it was back than.

            Christi pax.

          • William Davis

            I'm guessing that you aren't familiar with living conditions for the average person. The average family lived in an unconditioned would house that might have a wood or coal stove for heat. No bathrooms, only outside Johns. Heated baths were a rare luxury. One could expect to see at leat 1 out of their 4 children die of any number of diseases. One was lucky to live 50 years and usually didn't have teeth by then. There was no medicine to relieve and repair chronic pains, so most people lived with un-managed chronic pain. People were often lucky to still have teeth by 40 since there was no dentistry, and chewing poorly milled grains has the effect of sandpaper on the teeth.
            You can go back and live then, I'll pass ;)

          • Lucretius

            My point is that your claim is Western-centric.

            Christi pax.

          • William Davis

            I'll agree with that :)

          • Pofarmer

            You do realize, that entire post said exactly nothing?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The enlightenment was the greatest thing to happen to western civilization since the Greeks.

      • Alexandra

        They would act like athiest website commentors.

    • Thanks for the comment, William. I'm curious:

      Do you think that crime rate, lifespan, and GDP are the best measures of whether a civilization is thriving or not? Do you think there other (perhaps more) important metrics?

      • Now I'm curious. What other metrics would you suggest, Brandon? Other than number of Catholics ;) .

      • William Davis

        Currently I think they are, but that is primarily because we don't have a good metric for happiness. Of course, some cultures may not actually value happiness, so we would still be left to metrics like this. I think contribution to overall knowledge and/or cultural influence may also be a useful metric, but one that would be incredibly difficult to calculate. Do Catholics propose a different metric?

        • "Do Catholics propose a different metric?"

          The Catholic Church doesn't have a formal measure of human flourishing, if that's what you mean.

          But personally, I think the traits below represent stronger marks of human flourishing than "low murder rates" or "high GDP":

          - Openness to transcendence

          - Selfless charity, even for one's enemies

          - Affirmation of the dignity of all human beings, no matter size, age, or net worth

          - Strong families, committed marriages, and a high value of children

          - Vigorous pursuit of Truth, marked by scientific advancement

          - Appreciation of beauty and a robust artistic culture

          - A virtuous society in which it is "easier to be good" (cf. Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin)

          - Commitment to objective moral excellence

          In my view, the civilizations that have best met this criteria are those rooted in Christianity.

          • Andre V.

            Which current Western country would you say meets those criteria?

            Would you deny that Japan meets each and every one of those criteria? Singapore? Dubai?

          • Mila

            Dubai where a British woman was actually convicted of being raped by three men?

          • Andre V.

            You have not answered the question.
            But now, if and when you do, please exclude any such country where a visiting woman was raped by locals.

          • Mila

            Should I exclude countries that actually convicted a visiting woman for being raped?
            And the incident answers your question. "would you deny that japan meets each and everyone of those criteria? Singapore? Dubai? Yes and plenty of data to demonstrate it.
            For example in Dubai, the elections they have are really mock elections as only a few people are allowed to vote. It's really an Arab monarchical system. Half the politicians are appointed and the other half only 13,000 vote for them. The gov't there just recently crushed any dissent.
            Would you say that Dubai meets the criteria?

          • Andre V.

            You choose conveniently to not even try to answer the first part of the question. I will repeat it then. Brandon was asked which Western country he would propose meets those criteria that he pointed out. Once we have that in place, we can compare such a country's prowess on the force of goodness scale with the ones I mentioned in the second part.

            To then simply skip the first part of the question and simply start criticizing one of those countries based on a single incident is rather destructive of meaningful dialogue.

            But let me help you get started. You probably want to argue that perceived Christian countries would be the answer to the first part. The US, Britain, anywhere in Europe. Which of those countries fit this mythical Shangri-la of Christian perfection? Which of them would not have an incident such as the one you found so objectionable in your Dubai example?

          • Mila

            No country represents that criteria, including the ones you mentioned. No country in the world, however it doesn't mean that the criteria is bad. It means that humans fall short of them no matter the creed, religion, or non-religion. The more they hold these ideals the better they are.
            I'm refuting the notion that Singapore, held accountable for many human rights violations, Japan, UAE are examples of that criteria at all.

          • Andre V.

            Ok, so we are making progress.

            No country represents those criteria. I then don't understand where that Dubai example comes from, but let's leave that aside.

            You then say that all countries fall short, regardless of religious affiliation. The article, and Brandon's list, tells us that those countries / civilizations that best conform to the list are to be regarded as somehow superior. Christianity, I assume Catholicism in particular, makes a country, or then generously assumed, some countries, better off. This can only be true if they are better somehow because of such Christianity.

            With all of that understood, including your concession, what Christian country do you have in mind? How are they better than the countries that William and I have referred to?

            It is a simple question, designed to get us away from the vague premise of the article to a place where we can compare such premise between Christian country(ies) A versus non-Christian countries B, C and D.

          • Mila

            "How are they better than the countries that William and I have referred to?" So you actually think that there are no countries better than those with established laws that discriminate against women like the UAE does? If so, what makes them better?

          • Andre V.

            Mila, I am sorry but that is such an egregious twisting of my words that I can no longer accept that you have any intent of having a meaningful discussion.

            Thank you, but we're done.

          • Mila

            I really thought you were implying that those countries, which do not have a Christian majority, are better or that they hold those criteria. My whole argument is that they are not better and that no country has held those ideals all at the same time. The more they hold those ideals the better they are, but humans will always fall short of them no matter the creed, the religion, or non-religion affiliation of their citizens. For example, UAE is kind of a monarchical system with selective Islamic law. They do not have a religious police as Saudi Arabia has, but nonetheless they do abide by certain sharia laws. The country is not better even though when one goes to Dubai one might see the modern buildings and luxury and think they are progressive and civilized. Not even dissent is allowed or demonstrations against the government. Not long ago they arrested everyone in a peaceful gathering protesting the gov't.

          • Alexandra

            Mila has indicated English is not her first language (although it doesn't show) so I trust her sincerity. I have not seen her not try to answer a question.

          • Mila

            Thank you and yea maybe it's my fault, I probably misunderstood him.

          • Alexandra

            I have always enjoyed your comments here. You have a lot to offer. :)

          • Mila

            Thank you!

          • Andre V.

            I accept that.

          • William Davis

            You'd be quite wrong about Japan, at least since WWII. Japan is a great country, much better than anything in South America, in my humble opinion. I wouldn't mind moving to countries like Japan, Germany, Sweden, Norway, or the U.K. I'd NEVER want to move to any South American country, though some are better than others. I've know people from Nicaragua, Brazil, Peru, and Mexico. They all agree it is much better here in the secular United States ;)

          • Mila

            Who is saying anything regarding other countries being worst than South America?
            I'm saying that the Brazil example is not backed by its laws and the government of Brazil is quite hostile to Christians right now. Same with Chile and most certainly Argentina. Cristina, Bachelet, and Dilma are far from examples of Christianity.

          • William Davis

            Catholic South American countries can be just as bad when it comes to rape. Here is one example from Brazil, around 70% Catholic:

            http://www.ipsnews.net/2007/11/brazil-gang-raped-girl-in-menrsquos-jail-just-the-tip-of-the-iceberg/

            There are many more where this came from.

          • Mila

            It doesn't matter, the point here is that those countries mentioned do not meet the criteria.
            And I am from South America, those cases are rare. The law doesn't support it. Whereas we see in most of the Arab world that the law explicitly states that women must have 4 witnesses as their voices in court are valued half that of men.
            PS. the government of Brazil, especially now, is more secular than anything.

          • William Davis

            I just demonstrated how Japan meets those criteria too. They aren't bad criteria (for the most part), just almost impossible to measure with numbers.

          • "Which current Western country would you say meets those criteria?"

            The criteria are meant to be gauged by degree. I don't think any Western country completely meets all of that criteria, although some obviously fare better than others.

            I actually think many African cultures fare much better than most of the West, and are thus far more conducive to human flourishing.

            I should note that the original discussion (concerning civilizations) and my criteria (applied to cultures) shouldn't necessarily be applied to whole countries. Civilizations often transcend countries and cultures can be smaller.

          • Andre V.

            Fair enough.

            I would love to agree with you on that African culture statement, but my first reaction is one of surprise. I live here, so I am going to need some reflection on that.

          • William Davis

            No offense, but I'm not touching Africa with a 10 foot pole until ebola is gone ;P

          • Andre V.

            We had none of it, but yes, that's a big score against Africa.

          • William Davis

            Yeah, I've been following. I'm just glad something like that doesn't keep popping up here. Ebola is one of the few things that scares the crap out of me. The whole invisible but terrible lethal thing. No wonder the ancients believed in evil spirits. Originally evil spirits were the cause of disease as well.

          • William Davis

            They are good criteria, I enjoyed researching them in relation to Japan (I knew some of it off the top of my head, but definitely not all). Are they yours personally or do they come from a specific Catholic source?

          • William Davis

            Nice list, I'd like to talk about a few in relation to Japan.

            Openness to transcendence

            I think Japan is around 30% Buddhist, so they are definitely open to transcendence (I personally practice their path, at least in the form of mindfulness meditation)

            The Japanese seem very interested in self-improvement, and so am I. I took interest in the country because they have a lot to teach on self-improvement, and I take self-improvement seriously. I drink matcha, practice Jui jitsu, and eat a lot of fish just like the Japanese. Most cultures have much to teach to those willing to listen, and some are clearly better than others, at least in my view.

            Selfless charity, even for one's enemies

            Japan seems to be on track with this now, but they clearly had some issues before world war two. Largely Shintoism drove them to want to dominate the world. The Japanese have largely abandoned Shintoism except as a cultural phenomena.

            Affirmation of the dignity of all human beings, no matter size, age, or net worth

            I would say the murder statistic indicates their value for human life.

            I figure some of this comment is about abortion. You'll probably like the fact that Japan only allows abortion in specific situations:

            Abortion in Japan is available to women in limited circumstances, including endangerment of their health or economic hardship.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_Japan

            I think this makes their laws more pro-life than even the US

            Respect for basic human rights such as food, shelter, property, dignifying work, healthcare, etc.

            Japan has a welfare system comparable to Christian countries. Some criticize them for being too frugal, but where does that NOT happen?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfare_in_Japan

            Strong families, committed marriages, and a high value of children

            With regards to divorce rates, Japan is average. It is a little worse than Italy, but better than Spain and Portugal.

            Like almost all humans, the Japanese love their children :)

            Vigorous pursuit of Truth, marked by scientific advancement

            Here is a recent very important scientific breakthrough straight from Japan. It could pave the way to organ regeneration and potentially curing previously incurable diseases:

            http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2014/02/03/a-breakthrough-for-science-and-young-japanese-women/

            Here is a huge list of Japanese inventions, I can gather more direct science contributions if you'd like to see them (there are plenty more but they tend to be nuanced)

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Japanese_inventions

            Appreciation of beauty and a robust artistic culture

            Everyone has heard of a Haiku, obviously that is straight from Japan. Who can forget Godzilla, for better or for worse? Here is a wiki article on their art in general, some of it is very good.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_art

            Here is one of my favorite Japanese composers, this song is quite good (in my opinion)

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btyhpyJTyXg

            As for the rest, I think the crime statistics show it's "easy to be good" in Japan. It is a truly great country, I'm a big fan :)

          • Kraker Jak

            If I thought such a Utopia existed. I would be on the next flight out. Have you purchase your ticket yet;-)

          • William Davis

            You don't think you are an a--? I know I can be at times ;) My experience of you indicates that you have a stronger proclivity to a--ness than even I, but that may be due to specific circumstances and/or stongly held opinions.

          • Kraker Jak

            My experience of you indicates that you have a stronger proclivity to a--ness than even I,

            Well....that is probably true so far;-) But the race is not over.

          • William Davis

            Lol. I've been doing a good job of keeping my cool lately, usually that just means building up a pile of goodies to pop out when I flip my lid.

          • That's a great answer, Brandon. There are a couple things on the list I'd disagree with, but it's a good list.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            What about liberty?

          • Papalinton

            Brandon, these are not measurements. What you provide are statements and assertions. Measurements are instantiations of statistical significance where a positive or negative outcome in human flourishing can be determined. None, and I mean, NONE, of your points above are sufficiently Catholic-specific to warrant making such a claim. Your brushstroke of history is far too wide to render any meaning into the picture. Indeed it is surreal.

            Your view, that "... civilizations that have best met this criteria are those rooted in Christianity ..." is deeply and egregiously religio-centric. And thankfully, many of those countries that were once bound up in the hegemony of Christian thought are slowly but inexorably divesting themselves of it. The US, no less so, is maintaining if not accelerating the trend.

            And for those countries or civilizations that have not progressed to the same degree, have largely to thank their brand of religion for their parlous state. The advent of the Enlightenment and the rise of the United States, founded on Enlightenment and democratic principles, are the constituents compelling humanity's growth and flourishing, not religion. Indeed, competing sectarian interests in the early Americas, just as they are today, are for the most part the great stumbling block towards further human flourishing going forward.

            The union of European nations was not product of Christian values, but secular humanitarian values. The Great Wars, I and II, are a stark reminder and a testament that a belief in Christianity proved itself an utter and abject failure in times of crises. God stood over, arms folded, and watched his believers slaughter each other, British Christians against German Christians.

            Christianity was at the heart of the genocidal ethnic cleansing in the Balkans in the 1990s, ethnic Christians slaughtering ethnic Muslims, for what?

            No Brendon, Christianity is not a force for good. It is a useless and impotent force for good. As Napolean noted: "God always fights on the side with the best artillery."

            This Nelson character has subverted common sense and history in the spurious claims he makes about the Catholic Church being a force for good. It is a force unto itself whereby the means justifies its ends.

          • David Lalo Rudman

            I don't mean to sound annoying, but it seems pretty obvious that civilizations rooted in Christianity tend to take on moral identities that You Yourself find worthwhile- these too rooted in Christianity. What You are saying seems to be things founded in Christianity are the best at upholding Christian principles. I sure do hope that's the case :P . And anyways, there are a few regions of the world, I'm thinking native American and certain tribal African societies, that uphold a lot of that better than many regions that are very Christian.

            In any case, I think that these are wonderful and quite agreeable metrics, but it is quite fair to point out that I say that coming from a Western background, even though I'm not Christian (I'm Jewish), most of my ideals, morals and beliefs are founded upon the society in which I live, which, in turn, is essentially founded on Christianity. In fact, when most of the Americas and Europe are Christian and all of Africa and much of Asia and Oceania were until pretty recently colonized by Christians, it becomes pretty quickly apparent that these ideals are things that most people agree with not because they hold some absolute truth, but because they have been brought upon the world to a huge extent. Of course, this provides a legitimacy for these beliefs and I would argue that murder is wrong because we say so, and if we say so because some book told us to, that's fine so long as we still actually say so.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          To add to what BV just said, one possible way of measuring happiness is Fr. Robert Spitzer's "Four Levels of Happiness."

    • Kraker Jak

      Japans citizens have the longest lifespan of any country in the whole world Japan is also a leader in world commerce.

      He who lives the longest and has the most toys wins:-)

    • Andre V.

      Maybe we can add India and China.

      If those other, more intangible, metrics should be added then places like Bhutan, Singapore, Sweden and so on also become meaningful counter-examples.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      So, what was up with Japan for the first half of the 20th century and what brought about her change in the second half? How did she go from one of the greatest sources of evil in the world to being so benign (and demographically suicidal?)

      • William Davis

        They dumped shintoism, and accepted western secular culture, science, ect. They dumped Christianity as unnecessary. It seems they are doing just fine ;)
        Smart countries like Japan and Germany realize that quality is much better than quantity when it comes to people. I agree with them, and disagree with you. More people can create all kinds of problems. More is NOT necessarily better. I love Japan, feel free to criticize, and I will defend. See my newest post to Brandon with regards to his criteria (which is pretty good :)

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Japan did not dump Christianity. You have to have something before you dump it.

          Have you forgotten that Japan and Germany thrived because they were rebuilt and protected by the US?

          • William Davis

            If you look at Colonialism, Christianity always came with the package of Western culture. The U.S. largely stemmed from British (protestant) settlement, South America largely stemmed from Spanish (Catholic settle). Japan stripped Christianity from it's usual packaging, that's all I meant there.
            I'm familiar with western history. I think the relationship between the U.S. and Japan after the war has little bearing on the fact that Japan has thrived without Christianity.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't follow you.

            Japan has a culture that for a long time tried to remain isolated then opened itself to the West, yet it remains very homogeneous and hardly allows immigration. Japan was supposed to dominate the US economically but that fizzled out.

            It is probably the human virtues which are highly esteemed and lived there that has led to her material success.

            On the other hand, demographically, Japan could well have doomed herself. Many young men have withdrawn into themselves and have no interest in marriage and children. The population is rapidly aging.

          • William Davis

            On the other hand, demographically, Japan could well have doomed herself. Many young men have withdrawn into themselves and have no interest in marriage and children. The population is rapidly aging.

            This is something we all need to embrace. Current estimates suggest the world is only capable of feeding 10 billion people. That doesn't leave but so much room families with 7 kids.

            http://www.livescience.com/16493-people-planet-earth-support.html

            The population has stabilized in countries with a very well educated population for a very good reason. Again we prefer quality, not quantity ;)

            Seems like maybe Pope Francis agrees, though it could be the media taking his words out of context:

            http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/20/catholics-dont-have-to-breed-like-rabbits-says-pope-francis

          • Kevin Aldrich

            A very large number of developed countries have not stabilized their populations: they are set for a population plummet in which social program will go bankrupt.

            The Guardian report is a ridiculous distortion.

          • William Davis

            Did you read the guardian report? When I read it I actually thought it was pretty reasonable. It explained how Francis is much more conservative and traditional than most people realize. Try reading it and see if you change your mind :) Otherwise I'm curious as to what the distortion is (I'm sure you know better than I would).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are right. I only reacted to the headline. The actual content is acceptable. I don't get how you take from the report that the pope is advocating ZPG.

          • Michael Murray

            Current estimates suggest the world is only capable of feeding 10 billion people.

            Feeding maybe. Estimates for a sustainable long-term economy with a first world standard of living I thought were more like 1 billion. We are well up that proverbial creek without a paddle.

            I worry about the kind of world my children and grandchildren will live in. I think the last century of political freedoms we take for granted will disappear quickly when the environment begins to collapse and people start to move country in the millions, antibiotics stop working and pandemics sweep the planet. But I guess I'm just too much of an optimist.

          • William Davis

            I used to be more concerned about it than I am now. We humans tend to be quite good at adapting, and some lessons we just have to learn the hard way. I think the population lesson is one. I just hope the lesson isn't too hard, and that we don't decide to "solve" it with nuclear weapons.
            Speaking of problems, ever heard of Peak Oil? That's one quasi-conspiracy theory that is bound to happen if we don't change our ways. It's been amazing how much oil we've been able to locate, and there may be a bunch we can get from Antarctica of all places, but a sudden drop in oil supply can have a devastating effect on the economy. It is my view that a mini-oil peak caused the 2008 financial crisis as much as the housing bubble did. The oil peak caused extremely high gas/food prices which cost people jobs, which cost people houses, which affected the price of people houses which affected more jobs....
            Perhaps someone has to think like a scientist/engineer and generally understand how the world works before they realize how big of a problem some of this stuff can be. Modern magic has a cost, though it is my belief that we will continue to reduce the cost until it is nearly free (renewable energy and resources). That will be a heck of a lot easier with only 1 billion or so people to supply. but hopefully we can do a bit better than that.
            Sometimes I wonder if Christians are right in a way. Maybe we will have to make it through an apocalypse before we reach the kingdom of God (utiopia) with only a remnant. Of course I'm guessing both the apocalypse and kingdom of God will be our own making. Who knows? I think we can say that the "more people is better" paradigm, while true not long ago, is no longer true.

          • Michael Murray

            Somehow I don't see the mining of Antarctica as a step forward. It would be nice if when we finally stabilise the population and the economy in a sustainable and renewable way there was something pleasant left to look at. Maybe a large mammal or two still roaming in something approximating a wilderness ?

            Somewhat ironically given the current discussion I'm hoping the Pope's encyclical on climate change will be Good News

            http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/04/28/popes-environmental-manifesto-will-be-released-in-june/

          • William Davis

            For the record, I'm not saying getting oil out of Antarctica is a step forward, it is a sign of desperation.

            The primary reason for the conflicts in the middle east (starting in the 70s with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Carter doctrine) is oil, so I think you can say our need for oil has had a direct contribution to Islamic terror. We have been meddling in their countries for over 50 years now.

            Like or not, oil is that important. It isn't just a matter of convenience, right now it is truly a matter of life an death.

            We are nearly at 95 million barrels PER DAY world consumption. Per day. By my crude calculations, that's enough barrels, stacked end to end, to go around the earth twice. How long we can keep that up is anyone's guess.

            http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/steo/report/global_oil.cfm

            I'd feel a lot better if the consumption line would drop on it's own, but that isn't going to happen without alternate transport means. Elon Musk is doing his best to change that, and I applaud his efforts. The world needs more visionaries like him.

  • Kraker Jak

    The Crusades were a response to unprovoked Muslim aggression against Christian states.

    This particular point, is I think beyond question historically.
    The Crusades 1095-1204: A Concise Overview for Students.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQUMaWgumkU

    • Mila
      • Kraker Jak

        Yes....the Jihadi aspect of Islam was terrible indeed, and still is today, where practiced...and the multiplicity of events, invasions and battles in history is disturbing. But we must remember that history is full of violence and disturbing events. But as stated in the article, re the Christian response to Jihad:

        "To recognize the glory of the Crusades means not to whitewash what was ignoble about them,

        by Catholic crusaders.We have an opportunity here to build bridges by refraining from painting Islam with too broad a brush by flaunting the negative actions of fundamentalist Islam from centuries past. Not saying that we have to ignore the atrocities carried out by Islam, but that we should refrain a bit from being too triumphal in our castigation of same by inferring that the crusaders were without sin and did not commit atrocities.

        • Mila

          I agree that the Crusaders themselves probably committed atrocities and so did the Islamic invaders, however, I do agree that they were justified to defend themselves.
          I also agree that if not provoked, the crusades would have never happened.
          I do agree with you that we are facing the same violence we did since 634 AD. ISIS, Boko Haram, Alqaeda, Al furqan, Al shabab, Abu sayief, Jamaat al-islamyia, etc etc are on the attack and if not stopped we are facing tremendous genocidal and displacement of peoples like we haven't seen recent history. My question is that if primarily, the West goes and halts their advancement, say with a NATO force, in a thousand years will they be saying the exact same thing some revisionist historians say today about the Crusades? That they were unprovoked, that they were really the aggressors, etc.
          Btw, I would count on any NATO force ever doing anything against these monsters, not under this administration. If they do anything it would be for show as the operations have been till now. No real dismantling of ISIS at all. What is worse is that a force like that is most certainly supported, supplied, harbored by a state. If you ask me, it is most definitely Erdogan with support from certain Western nations.
          The majority of these ISIS leaders now are the remnants of failed "arab spring" attempts to topple old non-Muslim brotherhood leaders with worse and more virulent Muslim brotherhood ones. Belhadj was one of the Libyan rebels this administration worked with when bombing Gaddaffi. He is now one of the leaders of ISIS.

          • Kraker Jak

            Your focus is too narrow and you are not paying attention to the real situation.....just the same way Robert Spencer and ilk are not paying attention. Some of you should pay more attention to Noam Chomsky and Chris Hedges, and Graham Fuller.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxHyhi7P1Ds
            http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2014/09/turkey-usa-iraq-syria-isis-fuller.html

          • Mila

            My focus too narrow? In fact, I just gave you a different perspective than the narrow focus out there that has no idea what is really going on and it is the same focus that Fuller and Chomsky have actually. That the US is responsible for ISIS's creation, advancement, etc.
            I even stated, as an example, how one of the leader of ISIS has worked with the defense dept. to topple Gaddaffi.

            Tell me what is narrow about thinking that a force such as ISIS is really supported by a state?
            What is narrow in asserting that one of the leaders of ISIS actually worked with the defense dept. when bombing Gaddafi?
            Why is it that people who never bring anything to the table when talking about the Muslim Brotherhood focus on demonizing those who do? Like Robert Spencer. Let me add that he does have a different view than what I stated above.

            And FYI if my focus is narrow then so would Fuller's and Chomky's be as I agree with what they state, that the US is responsible for the fruition of ISIS indirectly and directly and is cooperating with Erdogan from Turkey to

          • Kraker Jak

            Ok....we are both straying a bit off topic.....and will excuse myself from this till I regroup my thoughts on this. Peace?

          • Mila

            Yes, just read what I write next time before making assumptions. Though I think Fuller is not completely correct in saying that the opposition in Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt were correct. It is the same opposition that is now supporting ISIS. It is the same opposition that was supported by the US in the so-called Arab spring fiasco. It is that same opposition that brought Morsi into power. The same Morsi who wanted 100% sharia based system in Egypt. Thanks to Russia that was halted.
            But yea we might be a little off topic here.

          • Kraker Jak

            al-islamyia, etc etc are on the attack and if not stopped we are facing
            tremendous genocidal and displacement of peoples like we haven't seen
            recent history.

            I jumped the gun a bit...and you are right...I should read more carefully....because of the above quote I assumed that you were condoning a violent solution to the problem by a Nato force, which you were not doing.....and we both know where the abysmal US and Western foreign policy over the past few decades have got us. I apologize for jumping to conclusions. Will read what you have to say more closely. Sorry. Have I seen you before on Truthdig?

          • Mila

            FYI I just read the article of Fuller you posted and he states exactly the same thing I said, that Erdogan is working with the US for the propagation of ISIS.

  • David

    As usual, a SN article that touches on the abuse scandal completely ignores or misses the real reason is was so horrible. It was not the abuse but the cover up that really makes the church the greatest criminal organization of our time. The catholic church is, without a doubt, the greatest force for evil that exists right now.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      What a way to open a dialogue.

      • Michael Murray

        What a way to open a dialogue.

        You mean David should have written something like:

        In the final analysis, the Catholic Church is unquestionably a force for good in the world—indeed a force for greatness. She always has been; and because the gates of hell can never prevail against her, she always will be. We have Christ's promise.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          That is how Nelson closed his argument, after supporting his claim with reasons.

          • Michael Murray

            Indeed. Closing down any discussion by making clear his reasons were not evidence based. In the finest Catholic apologist tradition reason is a tool to prop up faith not a tool to search for the truth.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The aim of Catholic apologetics is to show that Catholic beliefs are reasonable. It is not a tool to search for truth--that is the job of philosophy, theology, the natural sciences, history, and other fields of knowledge. The Catholic apologist just draws from these fields.

          • William Davis

            It is fascinating that Catholicism needs so much hard work to show it is reasonable. You work hard at it, I have to give you credit. You don't have an easy task, I find my side much easier to argue than yours :)

          • Michael Murray

            The aim of Catholic apologetics is to show that Catholic beliefs are reasonable.

            If the aim is to show reasonable then why are we always being blessed here with articles that tell us that Catholic beliefs have been proven or demonstrated and that anyone who doesn't believe the arguments in the article is being either deliberately obtuse or just plain evil.

            Personally if I wanted to promote dialogue I would drop the apologist articles completely. I would particularly drop the articles justifying all the things that most atheists, most dislike about the Catholic Church: abortion, contraception, child abuse, miracles, resurrection, ... and the articles telling atheists why they are wrong about everything. In a dialogue you don't start with the most difficult issues first you try to find some common ground - things you can agree on. For example environmental issues might be an interesting place to explore common ground.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            MM, I doubt that we would find common ground even on the environment. Catholics see the earth as a gift for man to use, keeping in mind that he is to exercise a responsible stewardship. Many environmentalists, who in my experience tend to be atheists, see human beings as a kind unnatural cancer ruining the world, which would be better off without us.

            Even when it comes to helping the poor, the atheist side has to paint Mother Teresa as a witch.

            I'm not sure there are any non-difficult issues but I'd be glad to start there.

          • Michael Murray

            I'm not sure there are any non-difficult issues but I'd be glad to start there.

            Sorry I'm not sure what you mean by "there" in this case ? The environment or Mother Teresa ?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I meant some issue you see as "non-difficult."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think I can dialogue on the environment, since I ghost-wrote a whole book for somebody on environmental issues seen from the Catholic perspective.

          • Michael Murray

            Had you thought of writing something for Strange Notions on the Catholic perspective on the environment? That would be interesting. What concerns me is how we get to a sustainable global population with a similar standard of living and political freedoms to what we have now. What is that number of people ? How long will it take to get there ? Or do we not even bother and just assume that science will pull a rabbit out of the hat no matter how big the population gets ?

          • "Had you thought of writing something for Strange Notions on the Catholic perspective on the environment?"

            Great suggestion, Michael. Sometime next month, Pope Francis will be releasing an entire encyclical on this very topic (should be 50-100 pages long.) I'm sure we'll have some articles surrounding its release.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I could probably write eight or ten to cover the major issues.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The other thing is that most atheist and Catholics don't run around talking about religion and politics all of the time. Most of us generally talk about music, art, science, sports, cars, vacations, literature, craft beers, and other interests. People also talk about life events like getting married, having a child, death of a family member, etc. At some point, politics and religion may get discussed, but by that time a friendship has usually been built and the conversation is truly a dialogue, in which one can actually focus on the reasons people have for believing something. Some people are capable of understanding the other side, some are not.

            The internet is a particularly contentious place, because we often don't have a lot of background information and it is easy to miss where other people are coming from. It is best to find common ground first. For instance, in terms of homosexual families, I would agree with you that the Catholic Church should not be forced to placed children with homosexual couples.

            I think at SN, we occasionally find it difficult to find common ground, because the articles don't always give us a good jumping off point. I don't think an article that tries to tackle four issues at once (one which is very sensitive to everyone involved), deals with them by citing highly biased sources, and then claims complete and utter victory for the Catholic Church is going to be a good start for dialogue. I don't mean this as a slight to anyone involved, I would imagine that it is very difficult to find good articles.

            With regard to Mother Teresa, I agree with you that Hitchens was way over the top. However, when it comes to the lack of health care actually provided by the Sisters of Charity, he makes some very substantial points.

          • Pofarmer

            "the atheist side has to paint Mother Teresa as a witch."

            Atheists don't believe in witches, BTW. What we say about MT, is that she is someone who caused harm while she was intending to help, and her Catholic ideology about suffering caused that. We say that she took millions in donations, some from despots, and yet never employed a single Dr. to examine patients at her Homes, nor put to use expensive medical equipment that was donated to her because she wouldn't involve people who had the training to use it. All of this is documented, some of it in peer reviewed Journals. We also say that she preached against contraception in some of the poorest and most retched slums in the world, thus ensuring more poverty and more sickness in those places. We say, that on balance, while she did do some good, she also did measurable harm.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You say too many things to respond to but this:

            > "and yet never employed a single Dr. to examine patients at her Homes"

            sounds absurd to me. Many physicians have assisted MT and the MCs. I also recall reading that one of the very first MCs became a physician.

          • Pofarmer

            "At the time of her death, Mother Teresa had opened 517 missions
            welcoming the poor and sick in more than 100 countries. The missions
            have been described as "homes for the dying" by doctors visiting several
            of these establishments in Calcutta. Two-thirds of the people coming to
            these missions hoped to a find a doctor to treat them, while the other
            third lay dying without receiving appropriate care. The doctors observed
            a significant lack of hygiene, even unfit conditions, as well as a
            shortage of actual care, inadequate food, and no painkillers. The
            problem is not a lack of money--the Foundation created by Mother Teresa
            has raised hundreds of millions of dollars--but rather a particular
            conception of suffering and death: "There is something beautiful in
            seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ's Passion.
            The world gains much from their suffering," was her reply to criticism,
            cites the journalist Christopher Hitchens. Nevertheless, when Mother
            Teresa required palliative care, she received it in a modern American
            hospital."

            http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-03/uom-mta022813.php

            I know that there is a specific case talked about in the BBC video, I believe, where a boy died of at treatable kidney infection, because he went to long untreated.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Biased journalism.

          • Pofarmer

            more

            Others have criticized Mother Teresa’s work with the ill and poor. Dr. Robin Fox, editor of The Lancet,
            described the services offered by Mother Teresa’s facilities as
            “haphazard” and pointed out a lack of physicians and professional
            medical care.

            A former Missionary of Charity member for 11 years, Colette Livermore, exposed some of the problems in her book Hope Endures: Leaving Mother Teresa, Losing Faith, and Searching for Meaning.

            In the book, Livermore wrote that “I had given all I had to live
            Mother Teresa’s ideal of ‘serving Christ in the distressing disguise of
            the poor’ but had left her order in 1984 disillusioned and far short of
            wholeness. My youthful belief and ideals had not withstood the realities
            of that life.”

            http://www.emaxhealth.com/1275/mother-teresa-less-saint-sick

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Anyone can be criticized.

          • Pofarmer

            Here is a the info for the Lancet article, but I can't seem to find text of it online.

            Robin Fox, "Calcutta Perspective: Mother Theresa's care for the dying", The Lancet, Vol. 344, Issue 8925 (17 September, 1994), pp. 807-808

          • Kevin Aldrich
          • Pofarmer

            "The day someone will lead a similar life to Mother Teresa's and still criticize the way she acted, then I will truly respect that opinion. But unsurprisingly that day still hasn't come."

            I actually quoted exactly that.

          • Pofarmer

            Oh,check out saith aye baba, who founded hospitals to give free surgeries to the poor.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Any good done by anyone is to be welcomed.

    • Matt Nelson

      David - as I said in the article: I make no attempt to defend those who committed wrongdoing. There is no possible way that I could cover all angles of these issues in one blog post. My focus was on the issue of celibacy and the priesthood and whether or not it is really a cause for child abuse. I think your statement about the Church being the greatest criminal organization of our time is a prime example of how critics focus on one aspect (however criminal) of the Church's contribution to society, and draw a highly premature and close-minded conclusion based on that one fact (or a handful of facts in neglect of many others). The Church, in as much as it consists of fallible humans, has made big mistakes and will undoubtedly do so in the future. But what about the good? Based on your assertion, isn't it highly paradoxical that "the greatest criminal organization of our times" continues to serve humanity in the supreme capacity it does? How do you explain that?

      • David

        I think any good the church might do is minimal and is far outweighed by the massive harm done not only through the abuse cover up but also teaching and spreading the nonsense and superstition that is its core message. Religion is a poison and institutions like the church that spread this poison are a disaster.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Feed the hungry
          Clothe the naked
          Nurse the sick
          Love your enemies
          ....
          pretty terrible, I wot.

          • Pofarmer

            Shame single mothers
            kill those who disagree
            encourage suffering for the sake of suffering
            violently and arrogantly resist change and knowledge

          • Kevin Aldrich

            ??

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The notion that single motherhood is bad for society long antedates the Catholic and Orthodox churches, which in fact rather famously have taken them in and cared for them. The idea among German pagans, Berbers, Persians, and others was that it brought shame on the family. Hence, the "honor killings" common elsewhere but condemned by the likes of Thomas Aquinas. Structurally, of course, the existence of fatherless children in the clan meant additional mouths to feed without the addition of men to feed them; that is, without allies for the mother's clan. (It was just as bad to marry within the moiety.)

            Killing those who disagree is also a long-standing human tradition as evidenced by the repeated medieval complaint about the "tender-heartedness of the clerics" who rather markedly did not generally kill those who disagreed. Compare the fates for example of those who disagreed with Lenin or Stalin or Napoleon. And on a lesser level the professional lives of those who disagree with the prevailing correctness.

            Not sure what you mean by the third item, since the Church's institutions were largely ordered for the amelioration of suffering.

            Resisting change and knowledge is another general human trait. (Recall Planck's famous remark that quantum theory triumphed because all the old scientists have died.) OTOH, mathematicians are not head-in-the-sanders simply because they have not abandoned the theorems of Euclidean geometry or Peano arithmetic. Sometimes, when something is right, change is the worst thing you can do.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Killing those who disagree is also a long-standing human tradition as evidenced by the repeated medieval complaint about the "tender-heartedness of the clerics" who rather markedly did not generally kill those who disagreed. Compare the fates for example of those who disagreed with Lenin or Stalin or Napoleon. And on a lesser level the professional lives of those who disagree with the prevailing correctness.

            So Christians never converted by the sword?

            Not sure what you mean by the third item, since the Church's institutions were largely ordered for the amelioration of suffering.

            See Mother Teresa.

            See http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Paraguay+failed+year+rape+victim+being+denied+abortion+says/11049025/story.html
            It seems your apologetic is simply, "well the Catholic Church is not quite as bad as everyone else"

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            So Christians never converted by the sword?

            After the collapse of Christendom, when the Church was subordinated to the national states as the "established churches" of the Age of Reason, many states carried their pet churches along with them when they set forth to conquer lands. Religious heterodoxy was equated with political treason. This appeared first and foremost in the United Crown in Castile and in Aragon, where the united monarchy sought to enforce a uniform adherence across the board in those kingdoms that had been united.

            Still, one finds it far more common to find kings setting forth to conquer for land and gold than to conquer for souls. The Church, save in a small local sense, never had the sort of army needed to convert by the sword.

          • David Nickol

            The Church, save in a small local sense, never had the sort of army needed to convert by the sword.

            There's a problem in debates about the Catholic Church, which is that it is difficult to define and often not defined. Consequently, if, say, a Catholic king did something in history that contemporary Catholics approve of, they attribute it to the Church, whereas if a Catholic king did something they disapprove of, it wasn't the Church that did it, it was a king who happened to be Catholic.

            I believe it was you who recently defended the Church's role in the Inquisition by saying that Church courts were far more merciful to suspected heretics than state-sponsored courts. It seems to me a perfectly legitimate question to ask whether or not any court during the Inquisition did not in some very real way represent the Church (or at least Catholicism).

            Catholics defending the Church often have a way of defining it in such a manner that there are no possible criticisms against it at all! The Church itself can't possibly do anything wrong. Some people in the Church admittedly have done wrong, but it would be wrong to attribute the misdeeds of bad Catholics to the Church!

          • Pofarmer

            Would we have had the State inquisitions without thr Church teachings and her inquisitions?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Certainly. Inquisitio dates from the late Roman Republic, and its rules were in place in the Roman law code long before the Church inherited them. We still have them today: it forms the basis of continental law and even in the Anglosphere can be found in coroner's inquests, grand jury proceedings, and (esp.) special prosecutors. The alternative form was accusatio which was the standard during most of the Republic. However, requiring the plaintiff to bring defendants to the courts, compel witnesses, etc. had obvious drawbacks in dealing with criminal cases. The distinction between accusation and inquisition is what we call civil vs. criminal court.

            A useful book detailing the history of inquisition, the myth of that history, and the history of that myth can be found in Edward Peters: Inquisition
            http://www.amazon.com/Inquisition-Edward-Peters/dp/0520066308/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1432068810&sr=1-1&keywords=peters+inquisition

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Part of the problem lies in ascribing agency to an abstraction. Thus: "African-Americans commit proportionately more crime" or "Prior to the 1950s, mobs of Democrats used to lynch black men". But things like race and political parties are abstractions and we reify them at some intellectual cost. That is, we begin to think that statistical descriptions are essential truths. That a crime is committed by someone who is black does not mean that he committed the crime because he is black. Would you answer what I take to be an ironic tone:

            Blacks defending the black race often have a way of defining it in such a manner that there are no possible criticisms against it at all! ... Some people in the black race admittedly have done wrong, but it would be wrong to attribute the misdeeds of bad African-Americans to the black race!

            You can see (I hope!) why this is a false way of thinking.
            ++++
            Now as regards your immediate concern and desire:
            The actions of a Catholic king are entirely the responsibility of that king. It is not even the responsibility of "kingship," if there is nothing in kingship as such which demands such acts. The operative term is "king," not "...ship." The same may even be said about Popes. There have been some pretty ripe ones, after all. But since kings, Popes, races, and the like are all staffed by human beings, we must first distinguish what is peculiar to them versus what is common to mankind. Since the Church is staffed with human beings, we should expect all the failures of human beings to make themselves evident at least sometimes. As Cardinal Dolan once said, if the bishops haven't managed to destroy the Church, it's not likely anyone else will. Or, quoting St. Basil: The road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.

            Then we must ask what it is that is essential to the group. What, for example, does the Church teach? Not what any one particular preacher hopped up on locoweed teaches, but the Church as a whole, her consensus across space and time. (This is why "individual interpretation" is so fraught with peril. Do we judge abolitionists on the bloodthirsty actions of John Brown?)

            There are more arguments against the notion of group guilt and other such prejudice.

          • Pofarmer

            Black isn't a belief system. Catholicism is. Did the king in question claim he was acting at the behest of Catholicsm? Or God?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I am sorry you are unable to think outside your box. In what way is reifying an abstraction different is the abstraction is a race or a "belief system"? And since when is the public claim of a politician, king or otherwise, a reliable indicator of his motives? Depending on the era, the political leader might call upon God, Reason, plunder, race, or La Belle France. Whether some king claims to be acting at the behest of Catholicism does not obligate Catholicism any more than someone claiming to act at the behest of Black Power.

            The problem with history is that she is not very friendly to folks who want to set up morality plays with cardboard abstractions. Real history is always local and particular, and it is well to gain some familiarity with it beyond the sort of over-broad generalizations that people seem happy with.

          • Pofarmer

            "Whether some king claims to be acting at the behest of Catholicism does
            not obligate Catholicism any more than someone claiming to act at the
            behest of Black Power."

            Sure it does, ideology matters. Why people do things matter. My original comment stands.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Then you really ought to specify the actual ideology. Point out the actual teaching or conditions.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I was thinking of the Saxon Wars.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            In which Franks treated Saxons badly simply because the former were Romanizing and the latter were the terrorists of their day?

            Eginhard's Vita karoli magni tells us:

            So war was declared, and was fought for thirty years continuously with the greatest fierceness on both sides, but with heavier loss to the Saxons than the Franks. The end might have been reached sooner had it
            not been for the perfidy of the Saxons. It is hard to say how often they admitted themselves beaten and surrendered as suppliants to King Charles; how often they promised to obey his orders, gave without delay the required hostages, and received the ambassadors that were sent to them. Sometimes they were so cowed and broken that they promised to abandon the worship of devils and willingly to submit themselves to the Christian religion. But though sometimes ready to bow to his commands they were always eager to break their promise, so that it is impossible to say which course seemed to come more natural to them, for from the beginning of the war there was scarcely a year in which they did not both promise and fail to perform.

            The modern version of this sort of thing is the belief that if only we could convert a country to democracy, they would thereafter be peaceable and friendly. It worked in Germany and Japan, but failed miserably in the Arab world, where the "will of the people" was rather more bloodthirsty than that of their more prudential rulers.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I'm not an expert on history, especially the early medieval period, but I have read that Christianizing the Saxons was a goal of the Franks. Certainly they were threatened with death if they did not convert. This seems to be an impulse in only two religions Christianity and Islam.
            I don't think one can make a liberal democracy overnight.
            The country needs to have an enlightenment first.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Had the Franks remained pagan, they would still have fought the Saxons and the war would have been just as savage. The Franks did not go to war against the Saxons in order to convert them to Christianity. They went to war because the Saxon barbarians were continually attacking over the border and repeatedly violating the treaties they had agreed to. Perhaps if they became Christian they would be better neighbors.... The slaughter of the leadership would likely have pacified them somewhat by removing the primary instigators even without a religious element.
            Even before Charlemagne, we find Saxon war bands wandering around Gaul fighting the Franks, Romans, and Goths. (cf. Gregory of Tours, Historia francorum, which also has a nice account of the relief of the Hunnish siege of Orleans.) You can follow this with the Annales regni francorum and the Vita karoli magni to get a fair notion of life in the Dark Age of the Volkerwanderung.
            http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/gregorytours.html
            http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/annalesregnifrancorum.html
            http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/ein.html
            Even in WW1, during the German invasion, von Hausen's Third (Saxon) Army had the reputation of being the cruelest and most vicious of the seven armies.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I don't doubt that they would have fought each other regardless of religion. While religion can be a motivating factor, there are always other factors.
            However, conversion by the sword is till an added war atrocity that would not have happened, if Charlemagne was a pagan.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            conversion by the sword is till an added war atrocity that would not have happened, if Charlemagne was a pagan.

            The Saxon terrorist leaders would be more dead?

      • Andre V.

        I acknowledge the good the Church has done, and continues to do. It is unwise to argue differently.

        I however have a different test to propose. The Church should also acknowledge that it has had centuries of state sponsorship, royal patronage and other boosts to membership and growth to give it an unprecedented leg-up.

        Let's ask ourselves whether what we see around us is really enough, given that patronage, financial assistance, political power and so on. Should the Church not have more to show for these centuries?

        And why, if it was such a force for good for so long, have we arrived here at this point in history? If it was that much of a force for good surely that should be a foundation for growth, not decay, not what we see around us. Or do we take that tempting easy way out by praising the Church for the good and blaming secularists, modernity and the Internet for the bad?

    • William Davis

      I'm no Catholic, but wouldn't you say ISIS (and radical Islam in general) is a greater force for evil than Catholicism? If not, why is Catholicism worse?
      I find comparative religion/philosophy interesting, and Catholicism may be the worst religion until you consider all the other religions. It's a lot like what many have said of democracy.

    • GCBill

      "The catholic church is, without a doubt, the greatest force for evil that exists right now."

      I'm not exactly a fan of the RCC, but I think this extreme a negative opinion is no more defensible than the author's extraordinarily positive one.

    • "The catholic church is, without a doubt, the greatest force for evil that exists right now."

      I have to believe this is simply hot air, but just to be sure, do you think the Catholic Church is more evil than ISIS or Boko Haram?

      Also, if your main frustration is that the Catholic Church covered up abuse, what are your thoughts about the boy scouts or the public school system, both of which had (and have) abuse rates significantly higher than the Catholic Church (and cover up more instances, per capita)?

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Do any of those institutions claim to always be right on matters of faith and morals?

      • Pofarmer

        The only places I've seen those comments made are by Catholic apologists. Do you have any actual numbers? Also, the Catholic abuse, and the responses to it, are worldwide, and have been going on literally for centuries.

      • cminca

        Do the Boy Scouts and the public school system claim to be the representative of God on earth?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          What do you mean "claim to be the representative of God on earth"?

          The Catholic Church does claim to be able to teach the moral law correctly. It does not claim that any of its members on earth are impeccable.

          • cminca

            Sorry Kevin--but I've read the "You are Peter...." quote too many times on too many boards to buy your attempt at deflection.

            The CC, and its members, claim the CC to be the earthly representative of the one true God.

            "It does not claim that any of its members on earth are impeccable." No--instead it claims that they are not "true Catholics".

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Dante filled hell with true Catholics.

            What do you mean by "earthly representatives of God"? You must mean something other than the Catholic Church means.

          • cminca

            Perhaps you'd explain these:

            "The Church, then, is God's only flock; it is like a standard lifted high for the nations to see it:(16)"

            "For it is only through Christ's Catholic Church, which is "the all-embracing means of salvation," that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God."

            2nd Vatican Council decree on ecumenism.

            http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19641121_unitatis-redintegratio_en.html

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What I can't explain and need you to is why you think members of the Church are not supposed to be able to make mistakes and sin?

          • cminca

            Kevin--If you'd look at my posts you'll see that I am not talking about individual members of the CC--any more than Brandon was talking about members of the Boy Scouts or school districts. I am now, and throughout this thread, talking about the INSTITUTION of the church. The bureaucracy. People acting in an official capacity not just as individuals but in their capacity as the hierarchy of the church.

            This is the problem with the "no true Catholic" argument. You want to claim Mother Teresa as representing the church? Fine. But you also have to acknowledge every priest and bishop that covered up sexual abuse in order to protect the image of the church. Because they were acting---not as individuals--but as instruments of the institution.

  • Kraker Jak

    They were not examples of European colonialism.

    Granted.....but since the subject of colonialism was brought up in the article, it should not simply be dismissed with a hand wave and the following should be noted.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_and_colonialism
    Christianity and colonialism are often closely associated because Catholicism and Protestantism were the religions of the European colonial powers[1] and acted in many ways as the "religious arm" of those powers.
    Christianity is targeted by critics of colonialism because the tenets of the religion were used to justify the actions of the colonists.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      An interesting take on a Jesuit missionary to the Native Americans in North America:

      http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/faith-and-character/faith-and-character/the-black-gown-and-what-could-have-been.html

      • Kraker Jak

        De Smett sounds like a good man who had a good heart, but that in itself cannot erase or mitigate the atrocities that took place here or in many other places throughout the world. The problem being that both church and established government largely seldom listen to the advice of individuals of good will. Ideological, national and corporate interests of the %1 usually prevail over the %99, even to the present day.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          The 1% vs. the 99% is also a present-day ideology. Maybe it makes it adherents deaf to the good that the Church has done and is doing.

          • Kraker Jak

            Which adherents are deaf to the contributions of the church?...the 1 percent or the 99 percent? I think most of the 1 percent, who are socialist minded would acknowledge the contributions toward poverty that the church makes and work hand in hand with Catholics concerned about poverty. I would have to say that corporate interests are the ones that are deaf, even though they pay political lip service to concerns about poverty.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think that people who adhere to the 1% vs. 99% paradigm are deaf to the contributions of the church. They seem to be Marxists without calling themselves that.

          • William Davis

            It probably has always been the 1% that mostly has controlled human civilization. This goes back to ancient times. If the 1% have honestly earned their place, I think their control is often better than anything a pure democracy could produce. It's when they don't honestly earn their place and when they become corrupt that we have real problems. To me, it is critical for any civilization to strive to get the best people in the right places.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            We are going far afield here but I think you are profoundly wrong! ;)

            What is most critical is to keep the crooks, liars, murderers, etc. from taking over. The government is best that governs least.

          • Kraker Jak

            You are too funny;-) You may as well tell the sun not to shine. Corporate control and government are the bane of our existence.
            http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20081229_why_i_am_a_socialist

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The government is best that governs least.

            I largely agree with this.

          • Kraker Jak

            It probably has always been the 1% that mostly has controlled human
            civilization. This goes back to ancient times. If the 1% have honestly earned their place, I think their control is often better than anything a pure democracy could produce.

            I think that yes...the 1 percent has always been in control as you say, but that power or force,to control the populace, has usually been reinforced or directed through shamanism, superstition, organized religion etc...hence by your conclusion we all would be better off with a benign organized religion or Theodicy running the show rather than a democracy.;-)

          • William Davis

            That's possible. I'm not quite sure modern democracy is doomed, but maybe. Modern democracy is still rule by the 1% (in my opinion), see my response to Ignatius.

          • Kraker Jak

            Something of interest. No need to reply...just thought you may find it interesting while we are on the topic of democracy.
            http://www.truthdig.com/avbooth/item/scheer_and_hedges_part_3_surveillance_corporatism_20150521

          • Ignatius Reilly

            If the 1% have honestly earned their place, I think their control is often better than anything a pure democracy could produce.

            No, no, no, no no....
            :-)

          • William Davis

            Lol. We live a world controlled by the 1%, it isn't pure democracy, never has been. The Greeks tried pure democracy, it was a disaster.

            The 1% that runs the world today are mostly CEOs, leading scientific advisers in government, ect. In other words, they are people that know what they are doing. Let the uneducated guy on the street have too much control, and things will go downhill fast. I realize this isn't politically correct, but I honestly think it's the truth. Right now the guy on the street just votes for whoever his daddy did for the most part. Some are influenced by TV adds, ect. If I had to guess, I'd say 20% vote based on the issues and not local social pressures. Of course, this 20% doesn't make decisions, and the people they vote in are drastically swayed by the top 1-5%. The 20% has a little say, but not much.

            Personally I think one big thing we can do to encourage getting the best people to the top is inheritance reform. If you earned your money and your place, GREAT. Such things shouldn't be inherited. This was the biggest mistake of every monarchy and/or emperor. Civilization is so complicated now I don't think a monarchy would come close to working. Does my comment make more sense now?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            We don't have a pure democracy, nor would we want one. In the United States, the upper middle class has a lot of power. I read an article in the NYT ( I wish I can find it) how many of our domestic policies help the upper middle class more than they do the 1% or the middle or lower class. It seems that that groups has the money, time, and education to be more forceful in politics.

            I don't think the 1% has as much power as you think they do. Motivated voters/interest groups have tons of power. For instance, it is very difficult for a pro-choice republican to win the primary, because a significant percentage of voters will not vote for him because of that issue alone.

            In general, all things being equal, I think less government is best.

          • William Davis

            When I say control, I'm including the economy too. True, the upper middle class has a lot of influence, especially with buy power, but the ideas of what to invest in and directions we are to move tend to come from specific people. I'm thinking Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Soros, ect

          • William Davis

            In general, all things being equal, I think less government is best.

            I used to be a hard core libertarian, but studying the great depression and some economics changed my mind on some of that. I'm still a social libertarian who thinks the nanny state is always going to be a failure.
            I think a pro-choice Republican can easily win a primary, he just can't run as pro-choice. Politicians mostly plan their platform based on the constituents, it doesn't necessarily reflect their views and/or intentions. Most Republicans talk the right talk, but they know they don't stand a chance against Roe vs. Wade, plus having abortion illegal costs a ton of money (largely due to dealing with unwanted children and increase crime).
            Anyway enough politics for now :)

          • Pofarmer
          • William Davis

            I'm not quite that cynical about it, but there is a lot of truth to what he is saying. I think to run as a Republican you generally have to be aligned with their ideology, but they often have to pick certain sides on issues not based on personal views. That's why they are representatives :) The closer the views they represent to their personal views the better I suppose.

  • Andre V.

    For homework, please go watch the Hitchens /Fry televised debate entitled ... "Is the Catholic Church a force for good?"

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Yes, the Church has proven herself to be the lifeline of our civilization—and without her—humanity will fail to thrive.

    I agree with some of the detractors below that this statement is hyperbolic.
    I think it is very possible to argue that the Church is and has been *a* lifeline for many civilizations--especially Western civilization--and has powerfully contributed to their thriving. At the same time there have been other civilization that have thrived without the Church (ancient China for one).

    Whether America could have thrived to the extent that she has without Christianity is not something an OP could do much with given the complexity of the topic. The same would hold true about the effect the decline in religious practice will have on American culture. Without Christianity, will we have virtuous citizens? Can a secular society produce strong families? Will people contribute to the common good or just get whatever they can for the short term?

  • Daryl K. Sauerwald

    Well lets apply all this to the enemies of the church may be the church exaggerated it reason for what it did to other christians and religion why is it that criticism against RCChurch question but not the criticism by RCChurch to others as well.I think the Church exaggerates persecution by Rome.It also easy to give credit to an organization that killed of all it competitors. For instance RCChurch claims it invented the hospital not till after in push out already existing medical center run by pagans The term "hospital' a term used to designate an organized medical center they already existed,same with the claims to inventing the "University" its just their term for something that already existed.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      You might consider rereading and then editing your comment. That is the English teacher in me.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      No the first hospitals were built by the Byzantines. When the Emperor Julian reverted to paganism, he wrote to the pagan priests urging them to imitate the Christians in their care for the sick and poor. The pagans had temples to Asklepios where sick people could go and for a fee hope for a dream visit by a god that would cure them. There were also repair shops for gladiators and soldiers and of course individual physicians. But the idea of a foundation for the acceptance of all comers, like the Hotel de Paris, was something new.

      Ditto the university. It is a distinctly different sort of corporation than the "schools" of the ancient world. Those were more like schools of fish: that is, disciples following a particular teacher, regardless whether they gathered in the same general locale -- the Academy, the Porch, etc. They were also independently chartered and self-governing, with a set curriculum and degrees of attainment. Classes alternated between the "ordinary lectures" and the "disputations," in the latter of which students were taught to argue logically for and against questions that were tossed out by the master.

      The madrassas of the House of Submission were also privately endowed, but they taught only interpretation of Holy Qur'an, not logic, reason, and natural philosophy. There were no degrees of attainment, only an ijaza that the student had memorized a particular work and was licensed to teach it to others. (No collection of ijaza ever added up to a bachelor, master, or doctorate degree; or even an inceptorate. The Imperial College in China was a prep school for the imperial bureaucracy and as such a department of the State. It's curriculum was limited to the Confucian classics and training students to write a rigidly-structured "eight-legged essay."

      This is discussed in
      http://www.amazon.com/The-Rise-Early-Modern-Science/dp/0521529948/ref=pd_sim_sbs_14_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=0YVEGPSV7SZ43WKYHVC0

      And Western universities in particular in
      http://www.amazon.com/Foundations-Modern-Science-Middle-Ages/dp/0521567629/ref=pd_sim_14_5?ie=UTF8&refRID=00K5WHQ8XBAN8XTQME0V

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Would one receive a better education at a conservative Catholic institution like Christendom or would one better off attending either a secular or prestigious religious institution? Perhaps a place like Notre Dame, which many Catholics seem to think is Catholic in name only.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Well, a lot of "universities" today are simply trade schools that cost a lot of money. One can major in the proverbial basket weaving or even in Studies studies; but whether one gets a university education is much iffier. Like the joke runs: "To get a good job you need an high school education; but you have to go to college to get one."

          Once something has been started and is seen as "good," others may imitate it, and it may keep coasting on the fumes. For example, once legitimacy shifted from the constitution of the State to the Will of the People, popular elections were seen as "good." So good that even Stalin held them.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Depends on what university you attend. If one studies mathematics and philosophy at a tier 1 college they are going to come out better educated then someone who attends one of these conservative catholic colleges.

            There is definitely a lot of universities that fail to educate their students. I think this is for several reasons. Firstly, college is more inclusive, nearly everyone goes, so I think standards were lowered to accommodate that trend. Secondly, in much of the United States high schools and elementary schools are not graduating sufficiently educated students. I think this leaves colleges forced to do a lot of catch up work. Thirdly, I think grade inflation has also played a part.
            However, one can still receive a first class education in the United States. Part of it is up to the student though.

            What I was trying to get at, albeit poorly, was that the modern philosophy of education places a very high value on being exposed to different views. I think this is an integral part of education and is a way in which the modern educational philosophy is better than the medieval educational philosophy.

            Catholic educational institutions (the conservative ones) seem to be very focused on teaching the Catholic truth at the expense of discussing alternate views. I fail to see how this is educational.

          • Chad Eberhart

            "Catholic educational institutions (the conservative ones) seem to be very focused on teaching the Catholic truth at the expense of discussing alternate views. I fail to see how this is educational."

            I think this is a real problem. Often I find myself in conversations with intelligent Catholics who were educated at small, conservative Catholic schools who, while obviously smart folks, have such a narrowly focused education that they are not conversant in the bigger picture and how their Catholicism fits within the larger philosophical and historical context. This in turn makes them ill equiped to engage in discussions with other world views without caricature.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I seriously doubt this. Conservative Catholic colleges actually teach the liberal arts so students are exposed to all major Western thought. What is more Catholic great books colleges study and discuss in depth--guess what--the great books of western civilization.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are speaking out of an unfamiliarity with both medieval universities and modern conservative Catholic colleges.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Perhaps you would care to point out where I am mistaken?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Read YOS's comment to you above on medieval universities.

            In regard to colleges today, check out TAC:

            http://www.thomasaquinas.edu

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Firstly, Thomas Aquinas is unlike the other conservative catholic colleges.

            Secondly, it is not always best to learn science via the original authors. Reading Pascal, Archimedes, and Aristotle on science is not how one learns science. Reading Euclid is not the best way to learn mathematics. I noticed that the college does not offer calculus. It is impossible to get a good education in science or mathematics at Aquinas, if they actually just read and discuss those books.

            Thirdly, the curriculum is devoid of liberal theology and many of Christianity's opponents.

            Fourthly, the offerings are heavy on the scholastic and the ancients, while only offering say Hume as a optional seminar. If they were serious about offering the a variety of readings and reading the best philosophers Hume would be mandatory. Many literary movements are also missing.

            If this is the best in conservative Catholic education, I'm afraid there isn't such a thing.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Whatever.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Haha - Sorry Kevin, I went on a rant there.

            I was thinking about education a little bit last night, and I think the hallmark about of a good education (or a sign that you are continually educating yourself) is that you change your mind on something and that you understand why people disagree with you. You could say argue the opposition's arguments with the same force that the opposition argues their arguments.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are a gentleman.

            The goal of a liberal education is to be able to think well and so (eventually) be able to judge all things. This involves knowing what truth means in the various subjects. After this ideally comes specialization.

            I think the main reason to study Euclid is to earn to think deductively and to develop a confidence that there are truths that do not rely on induction in any way. Abraham Lincoln had a big breakthrough in his thinking about white and black people through a Euclidian geometric proof which demonstrated to him that two things could be equal, even though to the eye they looked very unequal. I think this could help us grasp that an embryo, a new-born baby, a grown woman, and an old man are all equally human beings and so deserving of protection.

          • Pofarmer

            "You could say argue the opposition's arguments with the same force that the opposition argues their arguments."

            This is what really trips some people up about Atheists. My boys tell me I know more about the Bible than the teachers at their Catholic school. I know most of the Common Apologetics arguments and can argue both sides. Folks like Neil Carter and Cassidy Macgullicuddy and the folks at Ex-communications have all BTDT. We just don't accept those arguements anymore.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Which "conservative catholic" institutions are these? And what evidence is there for their being less well educated (versus less well trained for their role in corporate America)?

            That modern education values exposure to different views may not be evident to some of those who have tried to express different views in the classroom. One finds very quickly that there is orthodoxy and heresy and the latter will get you shouted down and even (if you are a professor) your career ruined. Often over some matter that was acceptable ten years ago, but is now verboten. G.K. Chesterton commented sardonically over this tendency. At least the old orthodoxy took great pains to spell out ahead of time what the heresies were. The modern academic is often blind-sided.

            Compare that to the medieval procedure of quaestiones, laying out the best arguments on each side of a question (thesis and antithesis) and then painstakingly weighing the arguments to draw a synthesis. That often led to incorrect conclusions when the data just wasn't there, but it certainly accustomed them to different views. "Show some reason why a thing is so," demanded William of Conches, "or cease to hold that it is so."

            In any case, the question is not whether this university or that is better than another. That there are universities at all means that they are following in the footprints first trod by Catholic Europe. Recall the quaestio laid out at the beginning of this thread.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Which "conservative catholic" institutions are these? And what evidence is there for their being less well educated (versus less well trained for their role in corporate America)?

            Schools like Christendom and Ave Maria. It is difficult to maximize your educational potential with the texts that these schools use and their educational philosophy. One could not learn pure mathematics at these institutions.

            As a side note, medieval universities were also training grounds for careers in the clergy, cannon law, law, and medicine.

            That modern education values exposure to different views may not be evident to some of those who have tried to express different views in the classroom. One finds very quickly that there is orthodoxy and heresy and the latter will get you shouted down and even (if you are a professor) your career ruined.

            This is not very common. I have never seen a student shouted down for expressing an unpopular view. I have seen students challenged on their view, which to my mind is a good thing.

            Do you have some particular professor in mind? As I understand, Kreeft teaches at Boston College, which is a fairly prestigious institution. His career hasn't been ruined. (Although, I do wonder exactly what research he has produced. The Socrates meets series should be a career ruiner.)

            In any case, the question is not whether this university or that is better than another. That there are universities at all means that they are following in the footprints first trod by Catholic Europe. Recall the quaestio laid out at the beginning of this thread.

            Modern universities evolved out of medieval universities and they are an improvement on medieval universities.

  • David Nickol

    When I saw the title Is the Catholic Church a Force for Good? I didn't expect there to be much of a controversy. But then I read the arguments.

    First, I think Matt Nelson bit off more than he (or anyone else) could chew in a post of this length—the Crusades, the abuse crisis, the Inquisition, and the role of women in the Church.

    Second, the arguments Mr. Nelson makes are all heavily dependent on obviously one-sided sources. For example, would anyone who wanted to consult something reasonably fair-minded or unbiased about the Crusades really choose works titled Seven Lies About Catholic History, The Crusades: The Victory Of Idealism, and The Glory of the Crusades? Come on!

    Third, this is not a defense of the Catholic Church, it is an "in your face" proclamation of the superiority of the Church over every other human group be it a culture, government, religion, philosophy of life, etc. It would somewhat less gradiose if it were a claim for Christianity as a whole, but it limits itself to only the Catholic Church.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    In the final analysis, the Catholic Church is unquestionably a force for good in the world—indeed a force for greatness.
    She always has been; and because the gates of hell can never prevail
    against her, she always will be. We have Christ's promise.
    Yes, the Church has proven herself to be the lifeline of our civilization—and without her—humanity will fail to thrive.

    Not at all. In many respects, the western world has changed for the better as Catholic influence has waned. Events such as the Renaissance (looking back to the ancient civilizations), Protestant Reformation, and the Enlightenment have all had tremendous influence on the shape of western civilization. Liberal democracy is not a Catholic idea. The United States is more influenced by protestantism than Roman Catholicism.

    Let's consider briefly the general assertion that religion is the chief cause of violence in the world.

    This is goal post shifting. The question at hand is does religion cause a significant portion of the world's violence?

    Sound historical scholarship has shown—contrary to what modern textbooks
    might falsely suggest—that the Crusades ought not be considered such a
    black mark in Catholic Church history.

    Perhaps, but the sources you cite are not exactly the very best.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    I think this article misses the point. There are at least three ways to judge an institutions utility. We can firstly judge its structure. A dictatorship is a bad form of government even if the dictator does good things with her power. We can judge secondly by the utility of the causes and beliefs that the institution propagates. Thirdly, we can judge by the historical record and current events.

    The Roman Church's structure has these key elements:

    1) Dogmatic
    2) Tendency towards fanaticism
    3) Tribal

    The Church has core beliefs including

    1) Hell
    2) Belief that it is responsible for the salvation of souls.

    These two beliefs, combined with the other three tenancies are a recipe for disaster. They gave us the Albigensian Crusade and the inquisition among other things.

    In modern times the Church takes a contentious stand on these issues:

    1) Abortion
    2) Contraception
    3) Same Sex Marriage
    4) Divorce and Remarriage

    If, those four items are good for society, then the Church is propagating a detrimental belief system, If, on the other hand, those four things are bad for society, then the Church is doing us an immense good by championing unpopular causes. Those of us who think liberal abortion laws, using contraception, same sex marriage, and liberal divorce laws are good will think the Church is causing harm by her stances.

    There are of course other issues that we could discuss.

    There are also positive tendencies within the Church's structure:

    1) Love thy neighbor
    2) Preferential option for the poor
    3) Equal dignity of all human individuals

    These are all good things. The question is do these impulses outweigh the bad? Or could we have these good impulses without the Church and without the bad impulses that the Church brings to the table. I would say a hesitant no to the first question and a yes to the second.

    Finally, the real question that we should ask about priestly celibacy and the Church's attitude in general towards human sexuality is: are the Church's views on human sexuality healthy? The consensus view of psychology would be a no at this point.

  • VicqRuiz

    "Is the Catholic Church a Force for Good?"

    When she stands against an oppressive state (think John Paul II vs. Communism, Graf von Galen versus Nazi euthanasia) absolutely YES.

    When she stands at the side of an oppressive state (think Franco, Batista, to some extent Mussolini, and all the way back to the Albigensian Crusade) absolutely NO.

  • David Nickol

    I am curious to why the section on the Crusades is titled Reclaiming The Homeland. Whose homeland? Or was it intended to be "Holy Land"?

  • David Nickol

    Therefore a female Catholic priest is about as possible as a male mother.

    Here's an exercise that seems to me at least partially a test of the validity of the above claim. Try substituting other roles for "Catholic priest" and see how many nontrivial statements you can come up with:

    A female _____________ is about as possible as a male mother.

    Doctor, lawyer, prime minister, president, astronaut, computer programmer, mathematician, aeronautical engineer, airline pilot, weight lifter, police officer, fire fighter? Anything?

    "Brother" would, in my opinion, be trivial.

    The fundamental question is, "What is it about the differences between men and women that make it 'impossible' for a woman to be a priest?" The role of priest didn't even exist at the time of Jesus (except within the Jewish priesthood), so it seems anachronistic to say that Jesus only selected men for the priesthood. But assuming Jesus fully intended to "ordain" his Apostles as Catholic priests, what was it about the differences between men and women that made it "impossible" for Jesus to select women for the priesthood?

    • Mila

      Here is one of my favorite lectures by Kreeft that addresses that question. I highly recommend it if you have time.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgou9QDR4KM

      • William Davis

        You guys really need to work on your psychology. The low suicide rate of hunter gatherer societies speak of the effect lifestyle can have on mental health. Wealth is not itself a cause of poor mental health, but unsatisfied desire can definitely be. The appetite for wealth creates the problem, not wealth itself, just as uncontrolled appetite for sex creates problems. Here is one specific example of the relationship between appetite for wealth, the inability to achieve it

        http://www.businessinsider.com/link-between-wealth-and-suicide-rates-san-francisco-federal-reserve-2012-11

        It's the inability to keep up with your neighbors they seems to create the biggest problem for most people. If there was a direct link between suicide and wealth, why is there a higher suicide rate for poorer in western countries. Why has Bill Gates not killed himself?

        The Buddhist have done a MUCH better job of specifically identifying the causes of mental misery, and modern (science based, not pseudoscience based) psychology has helped me understand myself very well. At family reunions, I'm basically the only non-Christian, but I have a mental energy, enthusiasm, and general good attitude that is umatched by any of the Christians. I personally think Christianity is quite bad for you mental health, and we need real solutions for these problems. Christians have tried, historically it is obvious to me that have failed. I think it is possible to devise a much better belief system that can help solve many problems that Christianity has completely failed to solve. Christianity just blames sinners. I might be idealistic, but I truly oppose Christianity because it just isn't good enough at doing what it thinks it is supposed to do. I know this to be true with all my heart in my personal life :)

    • William Davis

      Looks like the key is that women can't be priests. They can, however, be womenpriests...at least according to this website:

      http://romancatholicwomenpriests.org/

      For some reason the word womanpriest just sounds so awkward...I'd stick with priest.

  • Doug Shaver

    There's something I'm missing here. Certain accusations by the church's adversaries are unjustified, and therefore the church has been a force for greatness? Sorry, but I just don't see how that follows.

  • Pofarmer

    ""Were there cruel inquisitors in some places? Of course. Were methods of
    interrogation distasteful to modern sensibilities? Sure... [But] given
    its formidable task of guarding the purity of the Faith in Christian
    souls, however, the overall record of the Inquisition in dealing with
    heresy is not only defensible but admirable." (p. 102)"

    What kind of moral stupor do you have to be in to think that this is a reasonable thing to quote?

  • Pofarmer

    "I) Jesus called twelve apostles, all of whom were men (Mk 3:14-19; Lk 6:12-16)

    II) The twelve apostles ordained men only to succeed them (1 Tim 3:1-13; 2 Tim 1:6; Titus 1:5-9)

    III) These men were given a special gift and authority to serve in persona Christi or "in the person of Christ" (see 2 Cor 2:10; John 20:21-23)

    IV) Christ was a man; therefore those who serve "in his person" must also be men."

    So, since our supposed founder was a misogynist from a misogynistic society we can never rise above that standard?

    • William Davis

      Indeed, male-only ordination is discriminatory; but this is not a matter of preference but of deference to the "nature of things"; for it is the nature of nature to discriminate.

      Racism is a very natural form of discrimination. I guess we should all go back to being racists since it we need to defer to the "nature of thing". Keep going down that road, and Hitler suddenly becomes perfectly natural...

      • Kevin Aldrich

        There are no fundamental differences between people of different races. There is a fundamental difference between man and women.

        • William Davis

          This depends on your definition of fundamental. Is skin color and eye shape fundamental? Is genetic disposition to disease, ect, fundamental? Is a difference in reproductive organs actually fundamental? I just can't see how a difference in reproductive organs can actually matter that much better to intellectually, but that's just me. That isn't to say there isn't a difference between male and female brains, but it isn't relevant here. All you really have to stand on is the status quo.

          In the mean time, groups that utilize male and female brains will continue to blow you out of the water, and make you less and less relevant. Not my problem I guess.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What does this mean?

            groups that utilize male and female brains will continue to blow you out of the water, and make you less and less relevant.

          • William Davis

            The entire western world works on think tanks. These think tanks are composed of both men and women. Psychology is a great example of a field that contains both. Here is an article by a Catholic married to a Jew. Exemplary behavior is contagious, advice and ideas (like Christianity) don't seem to do very much. (I'm willing to bet this guy is one of the liberal Catholics, but who knows)

            https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/do-the-right-thing/201407/giving-people-advice-rarely-works-does

            Here's some research on how the presence of women can improve the intelligence of a group (in general, intellectual diversity seems to be helpful)

            https://hbr.org/2011/06/defend-your-research-what-makes-a-team-smarter-more-women/ar/1

            From the little I'm seeing I think I like Plante. He wrote this book (with female coauthors not surprisingly) going through what the Catholic church has done, and still needs to do to protect children inside the Church. I commend their efforts for reform, but like I said, it's groups of men and women working together that dwarf anything Catholic Priests have come up with with regard to their own ethics inside their own Church ;)

            http://www.amazon.com/Sexual-Abuse-Catholic-Church-Psychology/dp/0313393877

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What makes you think Catholics don't want women to think?

          • William Davis

            My point was simply that all male groups, like the Catholic priest hierarchy, are intellectually inferior to diverse groups of both men and women. The Church would benefit from the inclusion of women, it's just too stuck in its ways to realize it.

            P.S. Jesus probably wouldn't have wanted Gentiles involved in his Church, much less women.

            Mark 7

            24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre.[g] He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Sir,[h] even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.”30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

            Gentiles were dogs to Jews, you see...I think Paul had to fight over letting gentiles in, at least that is what many historians think. The 12 were not only men, they were all of Jewish descent. The Jews were quite racist. To a Jew, a Gentile was fundamentally different, as you say women are. My for all this comes right from the gospels. Think there is a copy in Matthew too.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are a font of theories about everything.

          • William Davis

            Thanks! I guess to a Catholic it makes me a giant ball of heresies, but I love esoteric theories for some reason. That was one thing loved about Johnboy Sylvest, he had some fascinating theories, though he could be pretty tough to understand sometimes. Too bad he deleted his account :(

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree about Johnboy.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      What evidence do you have that Jesus Christ was misogynistic and that he simply acted according to prevailing notions of his time?

  • Papalinton

    If religion cannot restrain evil, it cannot claim effective power for good.

    • William Davis

      I think a clean, honest, belief system will work much better to inspire people. Doing the right thing shouldn't be about belief in the supernatural. It should be about the obvious fact that we are all in this together, and doing what is best for my neighbor helps society, and helping society will help me and my family. None of can hope to make it out of this alive, but we can take some solace in knowing that we have done what we could to make things better for our species and offspring before we check out. Personally I think that is the only way one can truly be happy and fully alive.

      "Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around." -Thoreau

      I cannot live something I do not believe, and perhaps this is the greatest failing of Christianity, that many claim to believe it when they do not truly believe. At least I am honest; I think we need more of that.

      We also need more contemplation and attention to both our inner selves and to the beautiful world around us.

      "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." - Henry David Thoreau.

      Ok, I'm done with my hippy/Buddhist/Thoreau rambling ;)

      • Kevin Aldrich

        We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Pope Paul VI taught that “if you want peace, work for justice.” The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.

        http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catholic-social-teaching/solidarity.cfm

        • William Davis

          It's a good mission, and if Christianity gets some people there than great. It's all the people it doesn't work for that need a better solution. Christians presuppose that if Christianity doesn't work, then the problem is the person. I know from personal experience this is false, and Christianity has been generally negative for me. It's interesting how that works.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This is the principal of solidarity.

            "Christians presuppose that if Christianity doesn't work, then the problem is the person."

            Every human problem is either a problem in the human intellect, will, or body.

            What do you mean by "doesn't work"?

          • William Davis

            What do you mean by "doesn't work"?

            Nazi Germany was almost entirely Christian. It didn't help.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Nazi_Germany

            I'd call that not working.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Way to reduce a complex reality to a sound bite.

          • Mila

            Yea really, with that logic we can also say that the US was almost entirely Christian and it did help.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes. It would be the claim that the U.S., being a Christian nation, saw the evils of Nazism and Japanese fascism, and decided to make incredible sacrifices of her own men and materiel to stop them. There is some truth to that but it is not the whole truth.

          • David Nickol

            As I said earlier, it would be one thing if the OP made its claims about Christianity. But it is only about Catholicism. To the extent the United States owes its existence to Christianity, it is Protestant Christianity, not Catholicism. America was so wary of Catholics that we had no Catholic president until 1960, and even then Kennedy had to make arguments about what a Catholic president should and should not do that a great many conservative Catholics today are not happy with.

            P.S. As a schoolchild in the 1960s, did you help collect bowling balls to make a rosary for the Statue of Liberty?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm not actually making that claim.

            But I would make the claim that despite the predominance of Protestantism, some of the founding ideas were Catholic but were transmitted to the founding fathers through Enlightenment philosophers. http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199583645.001.0001/acprof-9780199583645

          • David Nickol

            So anything good that comes from Protestant Christianity is to be attributed to Catholicism?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            My point is that the idea of natural rights didn't not make it into the founding fathers' heads through Protestantism but from Enlightenment political thinkers who got it from Suarez.

          • Mila

            Protestants inherit most of their beliefs from the Catholic Church. It wasn't until the 1930s and 1960s that Protestants and Catholics agreed on most, if not all, moral teachings.

          • William Davis

            As a schoolchild in the 1960s, did you help collect bowling balls to make a rosary for the Statue of Liberty?

            For some reason I was thinking rosaries were handheld. I blame Protestant upbringing.

          • Kraker Jak

            As a schoolchild in the 1960s,

            But in the commune in California we made necklaces and bracelets out of dried painted,varnished and drilled rabbit droppings. But no rosaries.

          • William Davis

            I'd say the U.S. helped because the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. In other words, the U.S. helped because of Shintoist Japanese. I told you the Japanese were great :P

          • cminca

            Not if you were a native American.

          • William Davis

            Thanks, I thought it was both simple and accurate ;)

          • Nanchoz

            I don't see how that link is in any way helpful in proving a supposed compatibility between Nazism and Catholicism I think it rather prove the opposite

            "...Hitler routinely disregarded the Concordat, closing all Catholic institutions whose functions were not strictly religious. Clergy, nuns, and lay leaders were targeted, with thousands of arrests over the ensuing years"

            " ... Many historians believed that Hitler and the Nazis intended to eradicate Christianity in Germany after winning victory in the war..."

            "...Many Nazi leaders, including Adolf Hitler,[30] subscribed either to a mixture of pseudoscientific theories, particularly Social Darwinism,[33] or to mysticism and occultism, which was especially strong in the SS..."
            .

            Even if Germany effectively was mostly Christian it is a non sequitur to claim that Christianity leads to Nazism.
            I might be the worst catholic ever, but this doesn't invalidate Catholicism, even if there were a billion bad Catholics like myself.

            I propose you some examples of good catholics and how they actually behaved during nazism

            https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Kolbe.html

            http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_Stein

            https://www.ewtn.com/library/CHISTORY/PIUS12.HTM

            http://en.m.wik hipedia.org/wiki/108_Martyrs_of_World_War_II

            https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/schindler.html

            https://www.osv.com/OSVNewsweekly/RSS/RSSDailyTakeBlog/TabId/975/ArtMID/14186/Article ID/8255/Recalling-Catholic-martyrs-of-the-Nazi-era.aspx

            http://www.ad2000.com.au/articles/2011/jul2011p13_3563.html

            http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/catholic-martyrs-of-the-holocaust

            http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_resistance_to_Nazi_Germany

            "Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. " Mt 7:7

          • William Davis

            I never said Christianity leads to Nazism. I said Christianity failed to prevent Nazism. If one of the primary purposes of Christianity is to hinder evil, and encourage good, it completely failed in Nazi Germany. I agree there were some Catholics that tried to help.
            In the end, is my point is that Catholics are no more likely to be "good" than anyone else. An individual Catholic can be very good, or very evil, but the label "Catholic" no more an indicator than the label "Hindu". Today Germany is 30% agnostic/atheist, and I have no doubt that Germany is one of the least likely places for a holocaust to recur again. The fact that they becoming less Christian does not make them more likely to commit crimes against humanity. With regards to Christianity, a difference, that makes no difference, is no difference at all.
            To me, all this isn't evidence that Christian is in any way evil, it is evidence that it is untrue. Clearer now? I'm not an unreasonable Catholic basher :)

      • Kevin Aldrich

        "Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around." -Thoreau
        All people actually live their actual beliefs. At the same time, almost everyone has a gap between what they say they believe and what they really believe.

        Living your actual beliefs 100% is not necessarily a good thing. It depends on what those beliefs are. I'd say Bin Laden and Mother Teresa lived their beliefs to quite different ends.

        • William Davis

          Is Catholicism better than Islam? I definitely think so. But can we do better than Catholicism? I think so, but the jury is still out on whether a completely effective belief system is possible. Perhaps there will always be the need for alternate belief strategies to achieve the end of good behavior and altruism.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Then by your logic, if irreligion cannot restrain evil, it cannot claim effective power for good either.

      • Papalinton

        Why do you restate the obvious?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I'm trying to understand the import of your original comment.

          Why do you expect "religion" (whatever particular group you mean) to be able to restrain evil (especially a religion that believes in free will)?

          And why would that inability have an impact on what it can claim?

  • I can give you my point of view as an atheist.

    I cannot say that the Catholic Church is on balance more harmful than helpful. How could we even estimate this? This is like asking whether the British Monarchy is on balance a good or bad thing.

    What this article does instead is look to some criticisms of the Catholic Church and try to explain that they are not that bad, or not bad at all.

    The crusades. My understanding of these is that they were military campaigns by Europeans in the Middle East, in which Christians attempted to reclaim holy sites. As atheists, we look to things like this and ask, would these wars have happened if there was no religion? If so how might they have been different. We can't say, I think it is safe to say that European nations were encouraged if not ordered by the pope to participate, in circumstances that were of limited benefit to their populations, but of significant concern religiously. That much blood was spilt by both sides, and that less, if not much less blood would have been spilt if we were only talking about the geopolitical import of the locations. For example, and I am really going on vague memory here, that there was less interest in protecting Constantinople, than Jerusalem. We also think that religious justifications allow for more brutality with the enemy. They reinforce the otherness and evilness of the enemy, allowing for worse massacres. One does not need much time with the Old Testament to find justification for wiping out people's inhabiting the promised land. Same can be said for how the Qu'ran treats infidels and apostates.

    But all of this aside, if the crusades and inquisition were not that bad, we wonder why the heck a church was involved in the first place? These events occurred centuries after Jesus' message. Instead of centuries of the Catholic Church fighting against aggression, torture and genocide, we find one that is sometimes against it, but often implicated or responsible for crimes against humanity.

    What we really find is a church whose moral compass has evolved along with the rest of society, usually following Protestant jurisdictions.

    With respect to the child abuse, again, we expect the one true church to not have these issues arise in the first place, second not to avoid accountability. I think the church has failed on both accounts.

    With respect to discrimination, if Catholic doctrine is true, it is not sexist, rather the church is being consistent with the needs and circumstances of women. If not, it is being sexist.

    • joey_in_NC

      With respect to discrimination, if Catholic doctrine is true, it is not sexist, rather the church is being consistent with the needs and circumstances of women. If not, it is being sexist.

      If Catholic doctrine is true, why would it matter if the Church is considered "sexist" (based on any arbitrary definition of the word) or not, provided that women have the same opportunity as men to acquire eternal salvation in heaven?

      • Well, I think the church can still be racist, sexist, even if we all have the same opportunity for salvation.

        If the church took the position that women should not work outside the home, this would have nothing to do with salvation, but still be a sexist view.

      • Doug Shaver

        If Catholic doctrine is true, why would it matter if the Church is considered "sexist"

        That depends on whether sexism is wrong. If it is, then the church cannot be sexist. Otherwise, if Catholic doctrine is true, then the rest of us are mistaken if we believe sexism is wrong.

        • joey_in_NC

          That depends on whether sexism is wrong.

          You're correct. But the natural world is inherently "sexist", since in nature there exists male and female. After all, men cannot give birth to children. So does that mean the natural world is wrong?

          Maybe we need to refine exactly what "sexist" means. Or what you mean by "wrong".

          • Doug Shaver

            So does that mean the natural world is wrong?

            Right and wrong are applicable only to the actions of free agents. The natural world cannot decide how it will behave.

  • Pofarmer

    It seems to me that looking at three rather poorly defined instances is really just ducking the question. Shouldn't we look at the Church's ideology and see where it ultimately leads us? I mean, what kind of ideology leads an organization to torture and burn people at the stake? What kind of ideology leads to tortures and witch hunts. "Oh, it was only a few thousand" is hardly a defense. And these things terrorized Europe for hundreds of years. What kind of ideology leads people to lock up single mothers or "wayward women" in laundries. Laundries which were mainly closed only because the industrial revolution brought about the washing machine, which caused these slave labor camps not to be profitable. The last one closed in 1996, fer Petes sake. The Church never had a change of heart, nor saw such treatment of women as an error. What kind of ideology leads to policies that lead to more of what the institution claims to be most against? And yet, it cannot see fit to change those policies? What kind of ideology leads an institution to believe that it is above the State that it is a guest in, and start wars, even in the 20th Century? What kind of ideology leads an organization to pride itself as being so important that it cannot stand anyone speaking ill of it, or "damaging the Church" that it moves Pedophile priests from one area to an other and even to other countries, and sometimes protects them in the Vatican itself? What kind of ideology leads to Nuns and Doctors stealing hundreds of thousands of Babies from Single mothers over the course of at least half a Century, not only in Spain, but in Argentina and Vietnam probably as well? What kind of ideology leads an organization to lock up single women and children in orphanages and single mothers homes where the mortality rate for infants is as much as or more than double those outside those homes? And then force the mothers to work for the church for 3 years, often in the Laundries or homes? And this is just the very tip, of what is probably a very large iceberg. Yes, I know there are no links, as I was afraid the post would get unwieldy, I trust the commenters here can use google sufficiently to verify the claims.

  • David Nickol

    If you read the entry Woman in the 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia, it is difficult to view various parts of it as anything other than sexist. Here's a good example:

    The second branch of the woman question, which of necessity follows directly after that of gaining a livelihood, is that of a suitable education. The Catholic Church places here no barriers that have not already been established by nature. Fénelon expresses this necessary limitation thus: "The learning of women like that of men must be limited to the study of those things which belong to their calling; The difference in their activities must also give a different direction to their studies." The entrance of women as students in the universities, which has of late years spread in all countries, is to be judged according to these principles. Far from obstructing such a course in itself, Catholics encourage it. This has led in Germany to the founding of the "Hildegardisverein" for the aid of Catholic women students of higher branches of learning. Moreover, nature also shows here her undeniable regulating power. There is no need to fear the overcrowding of the academic professions by women.

    In the medical calling, which next to teaching is the first to be considered in discussing the professions of women, there are at the present time in Germany about 100 women to 30,000 men. For the studious woman as for others who earn a livelihood the academic calling is only a temporary position. The sexes can never be on an equality as regards studies pursued at a university. [Emphasis added.]

    Is there any field of study the Catholic Church of today would say is not suitable for women? Should women be barred from professions such as doctor, lawyer, senator, president, and so on? Or should they serve only until they have their first child?

    The view in the Catholic Encyclopedia is not merely wrongheaded, it is downright wrong. Here's a factoid I just grabbed at random and won't even bother to source, but it is true: "Women earned majority of doctoral degrees in 2012 for 4th straight year, and outnumber men in grad school 141 to 100."

    Certainly to the faithful Catholic in 1912, the positions in the Catholic Encyclopedia must have seemed quite reasonable, with all but "radical feminists" disagreeing. But to 21st-century Catholics, the view of women from the Catholic Encyclopedia seems seriously flawed and badly dated. The question is, a hundred years from now, will people like Peter Kreeft pontificating on the place of women in the world sound equally dated?

  • "85% of those responsible for altar preparation are women. Over 80% of
    the CCD (religious formation) teachers and sponsors of the catechumenate
    are women. Over 75% of adult Bible study leaders or participants are
    women. Over 70% of those who are active in parish renewal and spiritual
    growth are women, and over 80% of those who join prayer groups are
    women. Nearly 60% of those involved with youth groups and recreational
    activities are women. (Catholic Women As Ministers And Theologians, 240)"

    Of course they are! They're not allowed to do anything else.

  • I think that religion and Catholicism itself played a causal role in the crusades and extermination of the Cathars, the centuries or inquisition and in, at least, hiding and shuffling around abusive priests. But i can't demonstrate that.

    I also think that it perpetrates significant harm by its position with respect to birth control and abortion. But I cannot prove any of that.

    What we can say with certainty is that it does cause harm. I loved my grandfather dearly, and the only thing he said that ever disappointed me happened 10 years before I was born when my father asked for his blessing to marry my mom. He said he couldn't give it because my dad was Anglican. This meant something to both men at the time. It was a problem, not a huge one, but it made things difficult and it was hurtful.

    My grandparents were devastated at my parents decision not to baptize my sister and myself. I would have spared them that discomfort or despair that we might burn in hell. I am told they were really upset.

    Many families have been kept together by Catholicism, many others have been driven apart by it, often when a child falls in love with someone of a different faith or converts, or de-converts. Atheist communities are filled with former Catholics with these problems.

    For gay Catholics, they are told that a major part of them is "intrinsically disordered" (guess what tops the list when you Google ("intrinsically disordered"). They live in fear that they cannot overcome who they really are and continually sin just by thinking. I think this causes a great deal of needless sorrow, guilt, and fear. Not to mention depriving adherent Catholics of a great deal of pleasure and intimacy.

    Millions of Catholics have grown up in a devastating fear of hell, for centuries. These were not offhand comments. Look to the paintings in old Cathedrals to find images of people being tortured eternally. And that we deserved it. James Joyce provides a vivid portrayal of this in the Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

    Moreover, Catholics spend great amounts of time in church and devote significant resources to the church. I've been to Catholic services and was not alone in feeling much of it was tediously boring. Billions of tax dollars are uncollected.

    Compared to genocide and child abuse, these things may seem mild. But I would say they are pervasive. They are also related directly to religion and theism. They are acceptable when the organization has a distinct purpose, but I see none for the Catholic Church.

    Whether it is charity or building community, I do not see any reason why secular organizations cannot be just as effective if not even better.

    I am not sure what the religious or spiritual purpose of the church is. It would seem to me that the important issues such as salvation are not so dependent on being baptized, confession and last rights as was once thought. But of course from my perspective, there is no God and all of this standing and kneeling and incense is theater, as is the Hajj to a Christian or Kosher to a Wiccan.

    I would forgo the harms above for this theater. I think we can come up with a better secular theatre. We already have a name for it: theatre.

    • joey_in_NC

      What we can say with certainty is that it does cause harm.

      Given the premise that Catholicism is false. You can't prove its falseness "with certainty". But if Catholicism is true and hell does exist, then can you really say that the Church "causes harm", with regards to your examples of families breaking apart, the fear of hell, and the "deprivation" of a "great deal of pleasure"?

      • I can demonstrate Catholicism is false with very high confidence.

      • Pofarmer

        "But if Catholicism is true and hell does exist,"

        The fact that you even ask the question tells us the answer.

      • William Davis

        Given the premise that Catholicism is false. You can't prove its falseness "with certainty".

        I'm completely confident Catholicism is false, and I love to discuss why. I'm actually a believer in God, though the God I believe in is very unlike anything in Christianity. The idea that God could become a man, however, is a pretty absurd notion that only existed in pagan thought. A son of God in Jewish thought, was never supposed to be God, the entire male line of David were "sons of God". I can quote Bible verses if you want, but I won't digress further.
        I think there are some very good ideas in Christianity, but it got poisoned with bad ideas. My vote is to take the good and strip out the bad.
        Personally I think hell is one of the most sinister ideas in human history. It may be one of the ideas that has kept Christianity afloat for this long, but I'm confident it will also be the main idea that destroys Christianity. Cause and effect :)

        If we have any path to God it is through our conscience. My conscience screams at me that Christianity is wrong and immoral on many levels, and it is my duty to the human race and my fellow man to combat it. Hell created this obligation primarily, and it will engender more direct philosophical attack on the religion because it is right, and it is just. The world is better off without lies like hell, and countries like Japan get along fine without Christianity (see my other posts here).

        • joey_in_NC

          I'm actually a believer in God, though the God I believe in is very unlike anything in Christianity.

          Does your version of god care at all what we believe in and how we act?

          • William Davis

            Not exactly. Natural selection favors civilizations who embrace an effective morality, but there are likely many effective moralities. I try not to make anthropomorphize God any more than I have to, but if I had to guess I'd say he's indifferent to the plight of individuals (doesn't the world seem to work that way?) but may have some use or purpose for a highly evolved intelligent species. I'd like to think that, and I'd like to think there is some purpose for the universe (one that we probably can't yet comprehend with our limited minds), but all this is largely conjecture. My views are actually quite similar to Albert Einstein's, interestingly enough. Like him, I had rejected Christianity by the time I had reached my teenage years.
            I think the Christian God that cares about us as individuals is impossible to justify, but that is a whole topic in itself (theodicy). You might find this link helpful:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Albert_Einstein

            On a side note, there are clear rewards in this life for doing the right thing. Most of Christianity's moral teachings have clear cause and effect principles involved, with some notable exceptions (like condoms being immoral). In this sense, God favors our doing the right, but we get our reward or punishment in this life. I don't believe in an afterlife, sadly...it just doesn't make any sense to me at all (again it seems to just be wishful thinking, understandable wishful thinking).

          • joey_in_NC

            Given your views, then isn't simply any action for which we feel we get rewarded "moral"?

            Doesn't that mean Kim Jong Il, provided he died content as supreme leader of N. Korea, lived one of the most "moral" lives imaginable? Even though his actions caused harm to others, why would that matter to Kim unless the harm he caused to others adversely affected (punished) him during his life?

          • William Davis

            Kim Jong II probably thought he was moral, but I don't, and I bet you don't. I think the state of North Korea indicates he was doing something wrong. While there is no "objective morality" some moral systems are clearly more effective than others. Entire civilizations are rewarded and/or punished together for their collective morality.
            Morality can get extremely complex (economics and modern politics are all extensions of collective morality) and it is almost impossible to get hard and fast rule. Don't kill innocent people is a pretty common rule, but there is a MASSIVE amount of play in the definition of "innocent". Bin Laden believed Americans were guilty by association with our government. We'd have the same view of someone associated with ISIS, even if they haven't killed anyone themselves.

            In a sense "objective morality" is about the effect of an action (subjective is about conscience and how we feel about an action), but objective morality quickly becomes subjective when we talk about how to measure the effect.
            I've discussed these issues at great length here at SN. If you'd like I can link you to some relatively recent threads on the topic where I have made quite a few comments, without almost no plausible objection from Catholics.
            All that said, my personal view of morality ends of fairly close to a Catholic, and I quite diligent in my practice of said morality. I probably take care of my body better than the majority of Catholics (and most people in general). Healthy body = Healthy mind = Happy mind :)

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Given the premise that Catholicism is false. You can't prove its falseness "with certainty".

        This doesn't make sense.

        But if Catholicism is true and hell does exist, then can you really say that the Church "causes harm", with regards to your examples of families breaking apart, the fear of hell, and the "deprivation" of a "great deal of pleasure"?

        If Catholicism causes families to break apart, causes fear of hell, and deprives us of a great deal of pleasure, then yes, it does cause some harm, irrespective of whether it is true or false.

        • joey_in_NC

          If Catholicism causes families to break apart, causes fear of hell, and deprives us of a great deal of pleasure, then yes, it does cause some harm, irrespective of whether it is true or false.

          That's like arguing that telling the truth can cause harm. In that sense, yes, the truth can "cause harm".

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Problem is that it is highly unlikely that any of those Catholic doctrines are true.

  • Michael Murray

    So if the child abuse scandals are due to a small group of nasty people infiltrating the Good Church why is there such reluctance to get rid of them when they are caught and jailed.

    The head of the Christian Brothers' Oceania chapter has told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse there are no plans to remove paedophile Robert Best from the order.

    Best is one of three Christian Brothers who worked in Ballarat in regional Victoria, who have been convicted of abusing children under their care.

    He is currently in prison, but is expected to be released when he is aged in his 80s.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-22/no-plans-to-remove-convicted-paedophile-from-catholic-order/6490288

  • arcadius

    The link to Seven Lies About Catholic History is broken.

  • Margaret O

    I suppose it all depends on whether you would call abortion a crime.....

  • Miguel Adolfo.

    I don't dare to give a definite claim about female ordination, because is a complicated issue. But I will write this: "Apostol apostolorum" ("the apostle of the apostles"). And that was meant for Mary of Magdala! From a certain point a view, Jesus sended -and "apostle" refers to someone who is sended- the women to announce His resurrection to the male apostles. So, I think, there is a certain ground for female priesthood after all, or could be.