Saturday, March 23, 2013

So about that new pope and that "interreligious dialogue"...

I realize I'm very late to comment on this, but today is about as good as any day to comment given the new Roman Catholic pope (there's others; you know that, right?) and all that, and the fact that reportedly he's "reaching out" to the rest of the world for more "interreligious dialogue."

Yeah, whatever.

I am more or less a product of some of those institutions and attitudes that weighed so heavily on so many; I was fortunate, I suppose, in that the only abuse I suffered at the hands of these people was verbal and corporal.   But abuse it was nonetheless, and the Catholic Church's response in recent years to the sexual abuse doesn't give me hope for any kind of real possibility that anyone will be made whole in any of the other areas where abuse was pervasive anytime soon.

Nathan calls it patriarchy.  He's not wrong here, but I think it's way more than that.  Patriarchy has the connotation that somehow a few men are running things, and they're in control, have all the power, etc. etc.  I concede I'm oversimplifying here, but the reality is that the former Ratzinger and all the other Ratzingers were enabled by a network of clergy and laity.  The abuse many children in Catholic schools suffered was at the hands of some very distorted (pre-or anti-Vatican II) nuns; it's lampooned in movies like The Blues Brothers but it was taken for granted that you could physically assault children to get them to do what you wanted in those places, and in many places likely still is.  And there is a laity that enabled this, encouraged this, and funded this, and in many places likely still does. 

There is a reason the Catholic Church in East St. Louis is a highly attenuated version of itself, as another article in today's NY Times presents.   And it is precisely because all the crap that the Catholic Church perpetuated and all the "charity" it perpetuated came to nought.  Of course  a "deity" commanded the charity as did the "deity" put in place abusers, so what kind of charity is that if it's stained and sustained by greed and fear?

I became a Buddhist because Buddhism makes better sense of the world and has a more consistent ethic than Christianity.  In Christianity it's sort of verboten for mere mortals to go to hell to save another; in Buddhism you're in hell yourself as long as another is there.  That's why I think the two paths are ultimately incompatible, regardless of how friendly Thich Nhat Hanh gets with the liberal priests (assuming any survived John Paul II/Ratzinger).

And like Nathan, I'm hopeful for collapse; the sooner the better if people are disabused of notions that the charity means you have to support the abuse: they come as a package deal with the Catholic Church; they come as a package deal with humanity in fact.  The Catholic Church maintained that they were above it all.   Some folks in the American Buddhist community thought they were in Christian churches in the sense that they thought Buddhist sanghas were above petty politics, corruption and scandal.

It's a package deal in Buddhism too: the savory and the repulsive permeate each other, and the only hope Buddhism gives you is that there are means by which you can learn to transcend the repulsive as well as that which keeps us stuck or suffering.  It doesn't guarantee that those who prescribe the medicine will not themselves fall ill or aren't in fact already ill.  At least though Buddhism really does recognize this (and it's not to minimize harm when it happens...does every post that touches on this issue have to repeat that?).  And Buddhism has a path that recognizes that its path isn't trod by those who are vicars for deities.

Good luck to Francis; maybe he'll be another John XXIII.   But regardless,  suffering and dukkha are still inescapable, but can be transcended...


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