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Morality from Immorality?

October 11, 2010 Leave a comment

What is the relevance of tradition and ritual in a modern context? How has this morality changed, and what purity can be gained from a history of impurity?  In this time of joy or polite indifference for Australia’s five million Catholics, Mary MacKillop becomes canonised as Australia’s patron saint. But should this even matter? MacKillop, an incredible woman to be sure, now to be inducted into the holy order of saints, compromised of approximately three thousand men and women. Surely this diminishes some of the power behind an elevation to sainthood itself. Nevertheless we press on to examine the numerous rituals of the Catholic faith and their relevance in a modern spectrum.

Catholicism at its core, whilst meant to celebrate the life of Christ and his teachings, is a complex melding of belief, politics, power, monetary value and morality. Funnily enough, Biblical texts have not been updated or reformed to an enormous degree for a good chunk of time… five hundred years at the very least. Surely this cannot suffice with the mass production of new technology, which thereby create new moral problems. In the past 100 years modern issues have plagued the Church, including contraception, abortion, being same-sex attracted. As this particular faith system refuses to modify its current benchmark of morality, people are leaving the Church and with good reason. Some informed readers may cast their minds back to the Second Vatican Council which attempted to modernise some Church practices, yet despite widespread belief this council did not, alter any Church doctrine, as…wait for it, Church doctrine cannot change. Impervious to change. New faiths and off-shoots of the same basic belief have been created in an attempt to remedy the situation, but this does not change the fact that immovable doctrine from one of the largest religion’s on the planet is a slightly disconcerting idea. Especially considering some of the barbaric law evident within the Bible.

When speaking to Christians, I often hear the phrase, “But that’s in the Old Testament, so we don’t pay as much attention to that.” To this I reply, “You actually consider yourself a Christian?” I hate to offend but Jewish tradition and Scripture remains just as valid to Christians as it is to the Jewish. Followers of Christ believe in his teachings, therefore it is necessary to look at the finer aspects of the faith.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17

Therefore, the Law, of the prophets, the Law of a barbaric ancient world must be adhered to. The eternal subjugation of women must be respected, execution of homosexuals, adulterers, and those that do not adhere to strict fashion codes [“Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together.” Deuteronomy 22:11]. Then again, there is the issue of slavery, wherein one of the most cloudy and contradictory elements of holy doctrine is presented. Biblical texts clearly accept and sanction slavery [“Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.” Leviticus 25:44-46]. Yet the Catholic Church condemns the practice, this is evidenced by the numerous holy father’s over the decades:

In 1462, Pope Pius II declared slavery to be “a great crime.”

Urban VIII forbade it in 1639.

Gregory XVI condemned it in 1839.

Pius IX branded the “supreme villainy” (summum nefas) of the slave traders. [Just to name a few].

This provokes another idea, if Church doctrine has not changed, why has this been the case for slavery? Especially considering majority of basic morality and governing systems still seem alive and kicking. Even if numerous contradictions do exist within the faith, let us go back to the notion of the divine being made flesh, the Christ. If he did indeed believe in such Old Testament law, then this makes the saviour, the divine flesh a misogynist, racist, homophobic, man preaching about how one must love thy neighbour? Personally I simply cannot consider it viable to worship such a being, as I find racism, misogyny, homophobia and the death penalty inherently immoral.

It is at this point I ask, what is the use of ritual, especially within a Christian context when we either do no provide a full view of the faith as a whole, are hypocritical or simply downright secularly immoral. In any case it is a detrimental cycle, as religious moderates are theologically misled, and fundamentalists, those true to their faith, if given their way would surely be arrested for crimes against humanity.

At this point in time it is necessary to ask the question, why then, should the notion of sainthood even be given the light of day given the barbaric nature of the ancient church? To be fair, the corruption of one institution does not necessarily discredit the good work of one individual. But venerating the individual with miracles thereby proving their holiness is not the way to decide whether one is holy or not fit for veneration.

In any case the issues of paedophilia within the ranks of the clergy, in addition to the sexist nature of Church doctrine hamper the faith. The rejection of homosexuals, the deionisation of those that have undertaken abortion [This is absolutely insane, as there are instances where physically, psychologically emotionally a mother simply cannot handle a child, should these people be made to feel guilty for the fact that they rid the body of cells and chromosomes that would ultimately kill both them and the child?] in addition to the rejection of contraception especially with the still raging HIV/AIDS virus evident within third world countries all mean that the Church is losing, and has lost touch with fundamental elements of our society.

“I am secular,

  I am human.” – Braiden Dunn

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