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Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Road to Irrelevance

Amazingly enough, I’m not talking about the Republican party. Compared to the latest moves by the Catholic Church, the goplets are actually taking their wilderness experience to heart. But there are a lot of similarities: two institutions that have both seen better days, and are now increasingly the demesne of old men — or at least people who think like old men… little or no imagination nor willingness to acknowledge that things are changing out from under them.

Not being a Catholic, I don’t see the Catholic Church as anything but another Christian denomination… even if they were the denomination at one time. They may be the oldest, largest, and richest denomination, but that’s it. But their insistence on placing tradition on an equal footing with Scripture is driving them down the road to irrelevance, step by step. Any outfit that still wants to ban birth control in an era of overpopulation is simply not going to be taken seriously by anyone outside the institution… and many inside, for that matter. An institution that still refuses to let half the world’s population advance beyond secretarial or janitorial work, based on what’s (not) between their legs, is severely limiting itself by cutting out half the labor pool. (There are other denominations with the same self-limitation.)

Looking at the history of the Catholic Church, it’s fairly obvious that a church can have one of spiritual power or political power. The early church ministered to the lowly, even the slaves, and grew in spiritual power until it displaced the pagan religious structure of the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, this was the seed of its downfall: when the Empire collapsed, the church was sucked into the power vacuum and it accreted political power without even trying (although there were certainly ambitious priests who helped the process along). Being literally the kingmaker of Europe, it grew corrupt over the centuries until the Protestant Reformation forced some institutional soul-searching and internal reforms, which culminated 450 years later in Vatican II. But the last 20 years or so have seen some backsliding (heh) from the reforms, back to a more hard-line and hidebound set of doctrines.

Tradition serves a nation or institution well, during times that things aren’t changing much. It has been said that you could pluck citizens from ancient Rome and drop them in 1909, and they would be able to adjust — and adults living in 1909 would have a harder time adjusting life in 2009 than the civis Romanis would with 1910. The institutional memory of the Catholic Church reaches all the way back to Imperial Rome, and nothing that large or old can change course quickly even if they claim the desire… and it would require a truly impressive change to jettison the very things holding them back the most.

Remember… for every Catholic that insists that Protestants are going to Hell, there is a Protestant that insists the same about Catholics. [For the record, I take neither stance.]

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