Tuesday, March 13, 2012

This Lent Season

by Thomas O'Connell

Right now over a billion Catholics are in the middle of Lent, the recognition of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday. Although it varies in different denominations, for Catholics Lent consists of 40 days and nights in which believers are expected to fast, pray and give to one’s neighbor. A tradition for many Catholics during this time period is giving up a vice. This can consist of giving up drinking, smoking, eating sweets or reality TV. When I was trying to get back involved with the church in High School I stopped watching political news/journalism (suffice to say I never practiced lent again).

            It’s ironic then that the Catholic Church which sullied it’s reputation in the last twenty years would ask its parishioners to sacrifice during this time. While African Catholics continued attending mass and prayed for comfort in sickness and relief from poverty the Vatican refused to acknowledge the benefits of contraception in preventing STD’s and unwanted pregnancies. When LGBT Catholics were praying for acceptance from disapproving families and communities, the Vatican railed against the evils of homosexuality and the “gay marriage lobby.” And when young boys spent their nights asking god to protect them from the perverse intentions of local priests, the Church preceded to cover up the abuse while making no effort to protect these children in the future. If this were any developed and democratic state, the ruling party would be ousted for corruption and incompetence and there would be serious repercussions for public officials who continued such failed policies.

            Unfortunately church authority isn’t subjected to democratic accountability and continues to prop up abusive men and engage in missionary crusades in Central Africa that are counter-productive to stopping the spread of HIV-AIDS. Yet the pope and archbishops continue to complain when numerous followers flee their churches for other denominations or no denomination at all. Unfortunately, there are many that do put up with the ridiculousness of the Vatican and spend a good sum of their lives working with the church. They do so in the hope that their efforts will better the lives of the poor and destitute. I know many of these people in my own life, they go to mass and recite the Nicene Creed but also shutter in sadness when confronted with such abhorrent behavior. Many atheists and skeptics criticize these people for naïveté and continued support for a rotten institution. Yes. Those complaints are valid. But our anger and frustration should be pointed at those unjustly wielding power and setting policies that are contrary to reason and popular will.

            So on that note I have a few recommendations for what the leaders of the Church can give up during this Lent season. First, come clean with the systemic sexual abuse that’s been occurring for who knows how long.  Turn over those responsible for the cover-up and/or abuse and cooperate with local authorities. Second, give up the absurd notion that people can refrain from having sex. Allow men and women to make their own choices when it comes to birth control. Third, stop advancing discrimination towards gays and lesbians that are no longer compatible with modernity. Many in the LGBT community are your congregants, your brothers and sister and it’s disrespectful to them and their families to continue such policies. Lastly and most importantly tear town the patriarchal structure! Most of these problems stem from the fact that women do not hold positions of power in the church. Women are less likely to abuse children and more likely to report abuse. Women are also more likely to support birth control and reproductive rights as well as women’s education, which unlike evangelizing actually lifts communities and individuals out of poverty. Some will say these changes are too radical but what’s sad is many sects of Christianity adopted these practices a long time ago. The Church authority can either join modern society and liberal Christianity or continue to lose followers and it’s reputation. Either way, asking followers to choose between sex and Call of Duty every year isn’t helping.

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