An individual I have a long history with, whom I know as Michael, left a comment on my blog post about the Magdalene Laundries today. It is important that I share it and my response:
Just because the man is Pope doesn’t mean he has knowledge of everything that happens in the universal Church. I’d find it rather improbable that he did, given there wasn’t any public outcry. One has to remember that the government of Ireland contracted out to these institutions. Sadly, however, it was a failure on the part of Christians. Even though I agree this was the case, and even if the Pope knew about it and did nothing out of deep-seated moral evil (which is rather hard to chalk up to JP II), I don’t follow the reasoning to leaving the Church. Having true beliefs doesn’t imply moral impeccability (as I imagine you agree with Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, but don’t require them to be saints).
Some initial problems here. I didn’t say John Paul II knew about it, I said that this was during the tenure of the Pope. The implications are that he might have known about it. If so, that is troublesome, but Michael’s heart-felt defense of the Pope–as apologetic as it is–neglects the fact that a large number (hundreds perhaps?) of Catholic officials (nuns, clergymen, bishops, and cardinals) had to know about these laundries. They not only knew about it but ran them! While the nuns were eating well, 10,000 women were starving, worked to the bone, many died at these institutions. You cannot keep such a large amount of money (invested in the running of such a facility, along with the logistics of such a large workforce–even unpaid–and the logistics of the nunnery and other officials involved) hidden from the eyes of top members of the church. To think that is beyond naive (hint: it’s willful ignorance).
As for leaving the church, it isn’t just this one thing (the enslavement of women–which is a pretty serious moral crime, on top of being a real criminal act and just a shitty act in general), it is multiple atrocities like this that tested my will and my patience with the church (like the numerous coverups for clergy molesting children, moving them around instead of defrocking them so they could molest even more children, the anti-condom campaigns in Africa where there is a need for repress the growing HIV/AIDs epidemic, various anti-science positions of the church, anti-woman positions of the church, money laundering by the Vatican Bank, some of the largest business deals in Europe and largest investments in real estate in Europe by the church while millions of poor people die of starvation each day, etc…) that have led me to my decision.
Any corporation this corrupt does not deserve a penny from me and certainly is not worthy of my respect. The “deep-seated” evil to which you refer is not just one person, one Pope, or cardinal, or bishop; it is the whole damned institution.
And Ratizinger stepping down is just a testament to his knowledge of these sorts of tragedies. Ratzinger was a micro-manager and someone who had detailed knowledge of the inner workings of the church; he must have, being the head guy in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Now, to be clear, I don’t mean to suggest (as some may misconstrue) that Catholics are bad people. To the contrary, I know this to be untrue. Many Catholics are great people, who think to give to help others and who demonstrate the tenacity to the faith that is commendable. Many clergy are decent as well, some more than others. My contempt is not with Catholics, but with the church officials who perpetuate these criminal acts and moral lapses and those who continue to allow them to happen.
Addendum: Not sure where Michael gets the impression I agree with Dawkins, Dennet, and Hitchens….