This was the question addressed in this article sent to me by my friend Foomeister (and if you’re not following her on twitter, then you’re a fool to yourself and a burden to others). It makes some interesting points, but I’d like to answer the question in a slightly more direct way.
The continuing revelations of scandals within the Catholic church has produced a sense of Schadenfreude among anti-Catholics of all persuasions which is palpable. It’s terribly easy to point to cover-ups of sexual abuse, suspect accounting and centuries of other misdeeds and wonder how anyone can possibly remain connected to such people. I’ve written before that if you want to point to the crimes committed by the church and in the name of religion, you’ll get no argument from me. So why am I still a Catholic?
Well, let’s apply the same thinking to different issues…
Why are you still Australian after what was done to the aborigines?
Why are you still American after the invasion of Iraq on false pretences and all the abuses that followed? Alternatively, if you’re a crazy person, why are you still American after Obama and socialism? (For the sake of time and space, I am restricting US examples to this century.)
Why are you still German after nazism?
Why are you still South African after apartheid?
Why are you still Irish after the IRA?
Why are you still Israeli after Palestine?
Why are you still Palestinian after Israel?
Why are you still Zimbabwean after Mugabe?
Why are you still Iranian after Ahmadinejad?
Why are you still Chinese after Tibet?
Why are you still Russian after Bolshevism, Stalinism and Putin?
Why are you still British after… I don’t even know where to begin?
Why are you still white after centuries of abuse of other peoples based on the assumption, both explicit and implicit that whites are the superior race?
Why are you still male after rape?
Truthfully, that last one is the one I struggle with the most. In Trouble Every Day, Frank Zappa says, “I’m not black but there’s a whole lot of times I wish I could say I’m not white.” Well, I’m not a woman, but there’s a whole lot of times I wish I could say I’m not a man.
Some may say that gender, race and nationality are simply accidents of birth, while faith and religion are acts of free choice. Alright then, let’s go further…
Why do you still support St Kilda after Nick Riewoldt and Ricky Nixon?
Why do you still listen to Michael Jackson after the child abuse?
Why do you still watch Mel Gibson films after the bizarre anti-Jewish tirades?
Why do you support any team Michael Vick has been on? (You know, I bet I could fill several pages just with football teams.)
Why do you still read Jeffrey Archer after he perverted the course of justice?
Why do you still watch Seinfeld after Michael Richards’ racist rant?
Why do you still listen to Phil Spector records after he killed someone?
The answer to any one of these questions is the answer to all of them. Believe it or not, you don’t actually have to approve of spousal abuse to say that Ike Turner had some great riffs. Some have said they’ll never watch a Mel Gibson film again. Well, I hate to break it to you this way, but he’s already been paid for them so it won’t make a lick of difference whether you ever rent Braveheart or The Year of Living Dangerously again.
Whatever your cultural background may be, you don’t have to look too far to make a connection with shame and atrocity. The only way to completely detach ourselves from it would be to evolve into a new species and find another planet to live on. Even then, you’d run the risk of starting the whole cycle over again, and you have no idea what those Martians got up to.
Why am I still a Catholic? Because I’m sophisticated enough to understand that there will be people who I agree with on certain matters that do bad things. Likewise, there will be people who I agree with on certain matters who do good things; there will be people I disagree with on certain matters who do good things; and there will be people I disagree with on certain matters who do bad things.
Can you name a single person on Earth whose views and actions you agree with and endorse 100%? Do you associate only with those whose views and actions you completely endorse? If so, I would suggest that either you need to get out more, or you don’t know these people as well as you think you do. I have serious disagreements with the hierarchy of the church, just as I have serious disagreements with the Australian government. Frankly, I can’t think of any kind of hierarchy that I’m all that keen on. It doesn’t change who I am. I’m still Catholic, I’m still Australian, and dammit if I’m not still male.
There is a view that all Christians and particularly Catholics must publically denounce sexual abuse by the clergy or else be tainted with the same crime. It’s a ridiculous affront to natural justice which, quite ironically smacks of another great shame of the church, the inquisition. We don’t stand for Muslims being expected to either denounce terrorism or be presumed to support it. If you need me to tell you I’m against child abuse lest I be presumed to support, or at least accept it, then I don’t think I have anything to say to you at all, for I don’t think it would make any difference either way.
If you are able to associate only with people you completely approve of, and completely dissociate yourself from all those who do any wrong, then I can only admire the simplicity of your lifestyle.