catholic truth scotland

truth

We’re busy, on this thread, defending the Church against dissenters who double as heretics-into-schismatics.

The people over at Catholic Truth Scotland are busy having mutually affirming discussions about the nature of ‘truth’.  They didn’t appreciate atheists joining the discussion and I’ve been banned, spammed and left with a number of lingering questions that I’m hoping some more open-minded Catholics might help me with.

In my experience, Catholic Church adherents are of the view that their religious institution can be traced back with utter consistency to the times of the character Jesus. I don’t wish to delve into the power struggles, schisms and paths chosen over the last 2000 years, and I’ll save an exploration of how consistent core tenants of their faith are with the teachings of Jesus for a later post, because what interests me here is this myth of unchanging consistency that I have now heard on several occasions. Because it’s a myth that’s used to justify continuing discriminatory attitudes towards women and gay people.

The Catholic Church has in fact a long history of amending its attitude and beliefs, dependent on evidence available and the current generally accepted moral standards of society. Three areas immediately spring to mind:

1. Slavery. Down through most of the history of the Catholic Church, popes and bishops, like most others in their positions of power, had slaves. As recently as 1866, Pope Pius IX affirmed that “it is not contrary to the natural or divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given, provided in the sale, purchase, exchange or gift, the due conditions are strictly observed which the approved authors describe and explain”. Most modern societies now find any form of slavery to be morally repugnant. Would it be fair to say that the Catholic Church was wrong in its teachings and that it has changed stance significantly on this subject?

2. Persecuting, torturing and murdering those of differing faiths. Most people are pretty familiar with stories of brutality and violence committed in the name of the Catholic Church against anyone who expressed views that diverged from official doctrine. For example, against the ‘heretical’ 12th Century Waldensian movement which advocated following the teachings of Jesus. Witches were also considered a genuine problem, as a papal bull issue by Pope Innocent XIII in 1484 tells us “they hinder men from performing the sexual act and women from conceiving, whence husbands cannot know their wives nor wives receive their husbands; over and above this, they blasphemously renounce that Faith which is theirs by the Sacrament of Baptism,” Would it be fair to say that the Catholic Church was wrong in its teachings and actions, and that it has changed stance significantly in this area?

3. Fear of scientific fact. The most famous case is of course that of Galileo, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for suggesting that the Earth isn’t the centre of the universe. Would it be fair to say that the Catholic Church was wrong in its teachings and actions, and that it has changed stance significantly?

Returning for a moment to the beliefs of Catholic Truth Scotland, whose current object of vitriol is a priest who “advocates that two men should be able to marry” and is therefore “trying to create a false god in the image and likeness of his own ideas”.  I suggested to folks on this blog that perhaps this priest was of the ilk who would have called for an end to slavery in the days when the Catholic Church allowed and exploited the use of slaves; he would have denounced the persecution and murder of people for their beliefs as immoral in the days when the Catholic Church hunted down and punished any form of dissent; and he would have realised that science can tell us more about the universe than the Bible, in the days with the Catholic Church fearfully tried to ban books containing scientific facts. Perhaps this priest can see that same sex couples form relationships that are just as healthy, natural and productive as any heterosexual relationship, and that if they wish to express their bond through the traditional ritual of marriage, there is no reason to deny them this right.

Perhaps the fact that the Bible has nothing to say about homosexual marriage is an invitation to use evidence and common sense, and not rely on opinions presented in times of ignorance and irrational fear. I hope that in its quest for ‘truth’, the people at Catholic Truth Scotland don’t lose sight of the fact that every aspect of human society is constantly evolving, and that thankfully their church is not, and never has been, immune to change.

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