Sunday, February 12, 2012

The trouble with Catholics

On Darwin Day, the anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth in 1809, it should be noted that the Catholic brand is struggling these days.

Admittedly, it is odd to refer to Catholicism as a brand, but in this marketing age, is there anything more iconic, more brand-like, than the crucifix?

Nothing, really.

The crucifix is the most potent symbol in history.

Of course, it wasn't really adopted by Christians until the fourth century.

Before then, the fish icon was used. Hence, you can occasionally see bumper stickers of fish without legs, denoting traditionalists, or with legs, promoting Darwinism or evolution through natural selection.

Evolution cannot happen without human sexuality, the most potent force in human history.

Yes, that's right, human sexuality is a more powerful influence than any religion, political system or financial enterprise.

In fact, the power of human sexuality existed long before any belief system religion and will last after any religion.

So, here we are in the 21st Century, debating the ability of women to control when they will get pregnant.

What's really at issue is the ability of men to control women.

And that leaves us with the Catholic Church, a patriarchal institution that thrives on control over its vast dominion, particularly women.

It's not alone, of course, Islam, the GOP and others are venerable patriarchal institutions struggling with the aspirations of women.

The Obama Administration foolishly engaged the Catholic Church on its most vulnerable issue: Women and birth control.

Predictably, the Catholic Church showed a spine, that was conspicuously absent during the priest-abuse scandals, and resisted this intrusion.

The Church, if nothing else, is consistent. It has long opposed birth control and abortion along with the death penalty.

However, most Catholic women of child-bearing age use or approve of birth control measures. Many Catholic women have had abortions. And, most Catholics, in another case of situational ethics, are in favor of the death penalty.

These facts have been exposed during this debate on whether or not insurers of Catholic-related health plans should cover contraception. It also exposed the fact that the health plans of many Catholic universities and hospitals already cover contraception.

The Catholic hierarchy, and its acolytes in Congress, wailed that the recent government edicts were an attack on religion and violated one of the most sacred tenets of our Constitution: freedom of religion.

Yet, the Obama Administration was requiring nothing of religion except respecting the rights of women, one not fully enumerated in our Constitution, particularly after the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment in the late 1970s.

This was too much for the Catholic Church because women, while being a backbone of the Catholic faith, are treated as second-class members of the Church. No women are bishops or cardinals or even priests. No woman, aside from the legend of Pope Joan in the 13th Century, has ever been a pope. Women have no voice in decisions by the Church.

Many Catholic women are fine with this structure and that is okay.

But, many Catholic women are not. This fact is but one of many reasons why the Catholic Church struggles to grow.

In fact, the Catholic Church is in decline in America. Parishes and schools are closing or being consolidated in traditional Catholic communities from Boston to Los Angeles.

The sex-abuse scandals of the past 20 years only added to the Church's existing problems.

Presidential candidate and proud Catholic Rick Santorum said that the government has no business in forcing insurance companies to pay for birth control.

The question to Santorum is this: when your wife, due to her declining health, had an induced abortion in 1996, did your insurance provider pay for that procedure?

I think we know the answer to that.

What women, as far as I can tell, do not like is that such personal decisions are debated so publicly. These are private matters that no religion or ideology should control.

Beginning almost 500 years ago, the Catholic Church was rocked by the Reformation, which led to the creation of multiple Protestant denominations.

Today, the Catholic Church is deaf to the concerns of women. Unless it hears and respects the aspirations of women, the Church will continue to decline in America and the Western World.

It will find itself in another Reformation, one controlled and dominated by women.

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