A Flawed Defense of the Catholic Church


E. J. Dionne, Jr. is a well-respected columnist for the Washington Post and someone with whom fans of the MSNBC political shows may recognize. He's been a guest on Maddow countless times, and he usually sounds rational.

Dionne recently wrote a post for TruthDig about the full-page ad the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) ran in the Washington Post calling on Catholics to leave the church. Dionne sought to explain why he is not leaving the church. Unfortunately, his flippant tone and many misconceptions about the issues suggest that he made little effort to take it seriously.

Putting aside the group’s love for unnecessary quotation marks, it was shocking to learn that I’m an “enabler” doing “bad” to women’s rights. But Catholic liberals get used to these kinds of things.

So the fact that you can get used to it is supposed to make it okay? Doesn't a co-dependent get used to enabling the alcoholic partner? Since when is getting used to something an indicator of it's moral implications?

I’m sorry to inform the FFRF that I am declining its invitation to quit. They may not see the Gospel as a liberating document, but I do, and I can’t ignore the good done in the name of Christ by the sisters, priests, brothers and lay people who have devoted their lives to the poor and the marginalized.

The issue is not whether the FFRF or anyone else perceives the Christian bible as "liberating" in some way. Most would agree that the church has indeed done some good. The issue is that the good they have done does not begin to excuse their treatment of women, child rape, or the systemic efforts by church leadership to conceal child rape and demonize the victims.

Raising the issue of this sort of moral calculus is dangerous because it suggests that Dionne is willing to tolerate some amount of child rape in service to the greater good. But how much child rape should be tolerated? How many of those who insist that the good outweighs the bad would maintain this position if it was their own child being raped by a priest?

Dionne holds up Pope John XXIII as a model for women's rights. Shall we examine his position on contraception, abortion, and other relevant issues? It probably isn't necessary because we can see what the current church is doing.

Dionne goes on to echo a few of the recent criticisms that have been leveled against the church, including the Vatican's condemnation of American nuns and one bishop's comparison of Obama to Hitler. He clearly wishes that his church would be more optimistic and less obsessed with fear and hate. Not once does he mention child rape.

It is time for those who value equal rights for women and GLBT individuals to leave the Catholic Church. It is time for those who oppose child rape and organized efforts to conceal it so the perpetrators can continue to offend to leave the Catholic Church. It is time to leave the Catholic Church. In the face of such evil, I have to wonder what Catholics are waiting for?