I’ve been far too easy on you lot. Yesterday, in his eponymous and epurating ‘Blog, Oliver Kamm wrote of Johann Hari’s (silly) attack on Opus Dei*:
“[His] term Catholofascism is not accurate. There was in the 1920s a group known as clerico fascisti in Rome and Northern Italy, which aimed at a synthesis between Catholicism and fascism. This movement stressed a renewal of both the spirit and the nation. What Opus Dei stands for is extreme clerical reaction. The difference is comparable to that between the Croat state of the Ustasha and the Catholic authoritarianism of Engelbert Dollfuss in Austria. One is totalitarian and expansionist state-terrorism; the other is bigoted and repressive reaction, but without the connotation of expansionism.”
Tune in tomorrow when I compare Clinton’s and Bush’s approaches to US foreign policy with the Smith-Waterman and FASTA sequence alignment algorithms respectively.
(*Though they do indeed deserve a good kicking—of which more another time, I hope.)
I’m going to preface this comment with the following disclaimer:
(1) Haven’t the faintest idea what Ustasha or Englelbert Dollfuss are
(2) Have not read the Focault’s Pendulum or the Da Vinci Code
(3) I am a theist and a practicing Catholic.
(4) I disagree vehemently with some of the Catholic church’s teachings, do not believe in the infallibility of the Pope
(5) Hate the way the dogma of organized religion, especially Catholicism, is used in place of critical thinking
This obviously puts me in direct conflict with the Opus Dei or as we sometimes refer to them in the Philippines, the Opus Diaboli.
Whether one believes in the divinity or existence of Jesus Christ or not, I think we’d all agree that his life wasn’t too shabby an example of the way to live. If the stories in the bible are true, then this was a guy who hated hypocrisy (Matthew 5:20), advocated the compassionate application of morality (John 8:11), admitted he was wrong (Matthew 15:22-28), lost his temper (Mark 11:15), wept (John 11:35), and tried to get people to love each other. The worst thing people could say about him is that he ate too much, drank a lot and hung out with the wrong people (Matthew 11:19).
Unfortunately, the Catholic Church has a less than sterling record of getting in line with this program. Johann Hari cites the well-known complicity and/or silence of the Vatican during World War II. I also needn’t mention the church’s stand on homosexuality, contraception and divorce. This is clearly not the compassionate application of morality that can be inferred from Christ’s behavior. But before I digress into my own rant about the Catholic faith, let me sum up my complaints about the Opus Dei into two brief stories and two quotes.
(1) My sister attended (and detested every minute of) an Opus Dei university, where priests would walk around and “pounce” on students who hadn’t confessed their sins in more than a week. Part of their “examination of conscience” that prepares you for confession is a list of “evils” you might have committed. Such as: bare knees and arms, sitting beside a member of the opposite sex in a dark environment, etc. I went to a public high school and when the Opus Dei came to give us heathens a retreat, they tried to fob this off on me… to which I replied (loudly): “Oh good God! I went to a movie with my brother in a sleeveless top and a mini skirt! I’m a SINNER!!!” They weren’t too happy with me.
(2) This same university has an Entrepreneurship program for men only, because “Neuropsychological studies have proven that females have a significantly faster rate of left-brain and right-brain synapses than males. To maintain an environment conducive to optimal learning and the development of whole-brained entrepreneurs, an all-male class composed of individuals possessing the qualities mentioned earlier is seen as a more effective configuration over a mixed gender class”. If you clicked on the link above, you’ll see that the application requires a parent’s information sheet. Why? Because if your parents are separated or *gasp* annulled (no divorce in the Philippines), it has bearing on your character… unless of course they have enough money to throw at the school.
(3) From Einstein: “A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear and punishment and hope of reward after death. It is therefore easy to see why the Churches have always fought science and persecuted its devotees. If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.”
(4) From PJ O’Rourke: “Do you know how conservative I am? I’m so conservative that I believe that if gays want to get married, have children, and go to church, we should let them! Next they’ll be advocating school vouchers, boycotting HBO, and voting Republican.”
Okay, the last one was flippant, but you get the idea. In essence, the Opus Dei believe that adherence to the law was most pleasing to God (any one even passingly familiar with the New Testament will tell you that’s pretty much the same thing the Pharisees believed in). They fail to realize that you can keep all the laws and commandments (during the time that Jesus was supposed to be alive there were 637) and still be a horrible person. Whereas many aetheists are much better Catholics than the Catholics are, you know why? Because they figure there isn’t a guy in a white robe with a beard, there isn’t an absentee landlord that’s going to sort everything out “eventually”, and that means it’s all up to us.
Damian, I think I’m the first person to sully your blog with chapter and verse biblical references. Sorry old chap.
For anyone who wants to be a stickler about things, I used the King James Version.
The King James Version? Combined with your Opus Dei post, I can imagine a Catholic priest walking up to ol’ James with a barrel of gunpowder, and His Majesty dispatching of the traitor with that killer line: An accident must befall this man!
Any organizational construct of man will have its faults, particularly religious ones. Which is why I claim to be catholic as I was raised, but you won’t find me at mass more than a dozen times a year. The Vatican is particularly slow to change its ways, but change it has. I think that when you balance the good with the bad, the good side of the scale weighs a bit heavier, but that just doesn’t make for good headlines. It was easy for Einstein to say that religion was unnecessary, but he had the benefit of that education and a sympathetic character. I think quite a few others deep-down need a more objective framework of morality to reinforce a sympathetic direction and make sense of their lives. Some would say that is a bad thing (or not entirely a good thing), but I think pure relativism, i.e. subjective morality, is far worse.
I agree, Timbeaux. After all, the hope for eventual change is why I too still count myself as Catholic. As for Einstein, I have two reasons for putting that quote there: One is to argue from faith, which is that if you truly believe in God, then you should be good because you love him and try your best to love others; not because you want to get to heaven or fear hell. The second reason is to argue from the assumption that lack of evidence for the existence of God means that he/she does not exist, that a deity is a mythical construct created by humans as a method for social control and personal comfort. In which the result is the same. There isn’t anybody else out there who will make things better, so it’s up to us.
Jenner, technically the KJV was (I think) the only demand that ol’ prodigal James was willing to grant to somee sort of Puritan council seeking tolerance.
One of the minor pleasures of ‘blogdom’, is discoverong new words. You’re all such a brainy lot, you tend to use them frequently. I have a hernia-inducing dictionary of mammoth proportions always open next to my monitor in order to avoid lifting and carrying. The other week I discovered ‘sciolist’, the humble title, incidentally, of a very civilised and intelligent American blog.
So, imagine my exasperation when our host used the word “epurating”, and, poised for action, I hurled myself into the Oxford English Dictionary to find, well, zilch! Perhaps I should have had the Cambridge English Dictionary?
So what does this word “epurating” mean? I don’t know, but I think I should be told.
“purifying or purging, esp in reference to the denazification process in France after WWII”
CS, the evidence issue raises Neitche’s age-old question, “Is man one of God’s blunders, or is God one of man’s blunders?” To Newton, the evidence was self-evident, “In the absence of any other proof, the thumb would convince me of God’s existence.” Those on the lack-of-evidence side are too numerous to quote, but I think there is also a third position. The sense that the existance of evidence does not matter in the slightest. Since a majority do need both an objective set of rules for right and wrong, and a powerful reason to adhere to those rules (be it love or fear), then the need for having that framework is acceptable and necessary, regardless of how you view the authenticity of the parables. It only remains for us perfect it, which of course is the paradox, since the meddling of imperfect men and women makes such a goal unnattainable. It’s for that reason that I don’t find the Vatican’s slowness to change so troubling. If they were quick to, then we would soon find them selling indulgences and extorting the confessional again as in the middle ages. I guess it’s easy for me to say though, I’ve never heard of any Opus Dei types in America, the clergy seems to be quite a bit more laid back on dogma over here. Are a female-inclusive clergy and birth control issues that the church needs to do some self-examination on? Of course, and they will, eventually. The church already recognizes evolution (albeit divinely-inspired).