Absolute Power, Absolute Corruption

For many, many years I’ve joked that I have too much respect for priests to attend confession.  If I were to go, it would go along the lines of: “Forgive me father for I have sinned, it’s been 35 years or so since my last confession – how much time do you have? Cause I got lots of ground to cover…”  After watching Mea Maxima Culpa tonight, I must revise my joke.

I’ve no respect for priests as they are soldier/pawns involved in the most corrupt institution in the world.  On the day that Joseph Ratzinger decided to step down as pope, it’s clear that not only did he know of the widespread sexual abuse cases worldwide, but worked his institution to ensure the perpetrators of the abuse were able to continue in their criminally transgressive behavior to keep the church from acknowledging the extent of the damage.

I was raised Catholic, indoctrinated basically from birth in the mysticism of the church.  So I have little problem saying this – if you’re Catholic, and you still consider yourself Catholic after taking in the full spectrum of the criminal corruption of your church, you’re either mentally deficient or irredeemably brainwashed.

Obviously, given the sheer numbers of those that call themselves Catholic, it would appear that most adherents have chosen instead to keep themselves as ignorant as possible of the atrocities practiced by the church – what else can explain the continued affiliation?

The numbers must be doctored as well.  I’d bet dollars to donuts that I am still on the Catholic roll, a check mark on a ledger somewhere in the Vatican, by virtue of baptism and no record of excommunication.  I’m simply a bad, or lapsed, Catholic, but Catholic nonetheless.

Of course I haven’t been Catholic since 1977 when my parents split up and I’ve considered myself an atheist for the last decade.  But to the mother church, I’m still part of the bolstered flock.  Given this accounting system, most of Ireland would still be considered Catholic.  This despite the fact that the country’s reaction to the churches pervasive sex scandal has left Ireland turning away from Catholicism and religion in droves.

A WIN-Gallup International survey conducted last year found a dramatic decrease of those affiliating with religion in Ireland over the last 7 years – from 69% in 2005 to 47% in 2012 – a 22% drop!  The same survey found that 44% of what was one of the most religious countries in the the world now consider themselves without a religion while 10% self-identify as atheist.

This is, to me, one of the interesting data points.  It represents the long gray journey that takes place between losing religion to losing faith altogether.  This doesn’t, nor shouldn’t, take place overnight.  Reading the poll data, you have to ask what is the difference between “not a religious person” and “atheist?”  For all intents and purposes, I lost my religion in 1991.  It took another 12 years before I could leave my faith.  In those intervening years I would have best fit in the category of “not a religious person.”    Faith, or belief in god, was long ingrained in me – from my Catholic roots to my, later, Protestant conversion.  Shedding religion was difficult, but letting go of faith is probably worse than letting go of heroin (I only have experience in the former and not the latter, so the analogy may be without merit).

Religion, the formal doctrine providing the framework for nurturing faith, is the water and soil necessary to sustain belief.  When religion is removed, you are left without a reinforcement system that is designed to dispel doubt and foster belief.  My journey began as an effort to reconcile this situation.  I began by going back to church – ha, no, not the Catholic Church!  Just our local Methodist church, while simultaneously studying the bible.  It was through studying the origins of Christianity and the formation of the Catholic Church, along with the formation of church doctrine and theological thought, that it dawned on me that the whole thing was a sham!  The realization that your entire belief system is a lie is enough to shake you to the core!  You then must traverse the 7 stages of grief!

You don’t just wake up one day and declare you are no longer a Christian.

Which is where a near majority of my Irish cousins currently find themselves – on a road and journey moving them from no religion to no belief.  Of course not all will make it, but the fact that atheism has grown by over 300% in the last 7 years indicates there is a robust support network being established to help them along the difficult path.  My Facebook friend Michael Nugent has worked tirelessly to put support networks in place for people needing assistance.

To close this one out, I return to the beginning – the Holy Catholic Church is not holy by any stretch – it’s a man-made institution whose sole purpose is to survive.  It has nothing to do with god or saving souls – it exists to exist and the main goal of the church leadership, from the pope down is to see that this continues.  These people may have had the best of intentions when entering the church, but the institution itself is evil and corrupt and will find a way to pervert the best of people.

It’s amusing that here in America, we have such an inherent distrust of the government, and its potential for abuse of power, that we limit the amount of time a person can be president.  And despite the fact that members of congress face a potential term limit every two to six years, we don’t even trust ourselves not to keep sending politicians back to Washington.  The idea of limiting the number of terms one can serve in the House or Senate has wide appeal.  Such is the disdain and distrust for a career politician – because we “know” through experience the longer one stays in government the greater the potential for corruption is.  Now imagine what a lifetime spent in the church hierarchy gets you, yet we never consider for a moment the potential for corruption this provides.

The mechanics of the U.S. government is barely over 200 old.  The Catholic Church has a 15 century head start and has perfected corruption!

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7 Responses to Absolute Power, Absolute Corruption

  1. Doug Siverly says:

    A day before you announced this article I was thinking about a friend of mine, Sister Mary Margret Ferrell, an Irish Catholic nun here in LA. I don’t think I have ever encountered anyone so selflessly involved in helping the children of the mean streets of LA. We had many talks deep into the night – I’d often help her drive food or school supplies around LA, Her dislike of church politics tops even yours. I found more nuns shared her opinion – Margret & I sometimes would deliver backpacks full of school supplies to a cluster of nuns at the Tijuana dump, where poor children picked through it trying to survive. These poor women, almost NO SUPPORT from the church, which was engaged with it’s usual pr battles defending pedifile priests or staving off bankruptcies. To these women, the church had become just a tool to put them at the point of attack – in this case, a dump. They watched children suffer daily, while picking through garbage that undoubtedly contained news copy sighting the millions of dollars THEIR church spent in court that day! Your article is spot on, once a priest steps back from the people and steps toward the management of the church, it’s money, and corruption that ultimately come with it, that guides.

    Margret never attends mass. She “church surfs”, attending services at any other church – .including Islam services – in an effort to feed her spirituality. In all the years I’ve known her, we have never had a “spiritual” discussion, it’s always kids, start times, the wheres, whens, and hows of her business.

    I’ve come to think many parishioners of the church are in many ways very similar to Margret. They attend mass, practice the rituals, and quietly, privately, make the rest up as they go – hoping & waiting for the church to catch up. I often wonder what % of catholic women (and their catholic “significant others”) have had abortions or use birth control? I’d be willing to bet it matches the % in the general public. I’m lead to believe, based on media reports, many catholics voted for Obama, despite liberal dogma the church opposes.

    As for me, I’m a “recovering” catholic. I wish I were buddhist, but I’m apparently too lazy to figure it out. Pagan might fit me well I guess – I like nature enough to worship it. I don’t refer to god in writing, preferring to use the catch-all “The Universe”, believing that what some call god others call science, I don’t pray, I “meditate”. My thought is, the universe is unfolding as it should, there’s no stopping it, so supreme being or physics unfolding…….. same – same in my book. “Something” is up to “something”, whether “it” “knows” it or not.

    SO, I’m just a pagan who believes in science, celebrates christmas because almost everyone else does (+ like giving & receiving presents), and who, in glorious hypocrisy, still encourages his grand children get baptized, “just in case”!

    George Carlin once said “All religions are the same, it’s just that different cultures use different names / holidays to describe “guilt management”.

    Sister Mary Margret Ferrell tells me the nuns are quietly going away. Not many young women are joining, preferring to help humanity in other ways…..

    As always, GREAT read Sean! Keep ’em coming……

  2. seanasbury says:


    Thanks for the fantastic comment! Sister Mary Margret Ferrell sounds like quite the lady! I agree, nuns have certainly pulled the short stick in the Catholic hierarchy!

    A brother of a friend of mine is preparing to enter the priesthood. I’ve no doubt his heart is in the right place and he’s preparing to do god’s work. But in my humble opinion, he’s joining a terribly corrupt firm that will either ensnare him or ultimately leave him disillusioned…

    When it comes to philosophical/theological debate or conversation, I’m always interested in joining in – I find it fascinating! I think it’s part of man’s inherent nature to question his origins as well as his purpose in life. While I consider myself an atheist, and live my life as though “god” does not exist, it doesn’t mean that I’m not capable of positing my own or enjoying others theories on it as well. Ellen and I had a great conversation the other night over dinner. She, much like you, sees a “universal energy” that we come from and go back to after death.

    She spoke of how you can see the life force leave a person when they die — since she works in a hospital, I take her word on her experience, but I questioned what is the difference between life leaving and the person’s life force expiring – are they not one and the same? Ultimately, it’s something that works for her – and that is what belief and religion should foster – helping people cope with the uncertainty and pain we experience in this life – not establishing tribal-like rules that propagate the in-group against the out-groups. That’s exactly the kind of thing that led the Lutheran synod to reprimand the pastor that joined in in ecumenical prayer with other faiths. Yuck! 🙂

    Anyway, glad you enjoyed the article – I sure enjoyed the comment!

    • Doug Siverly says:

      “…but I questioned what is the difference between life leaving and the person’s life force expiring ”

      Interesting, I think you hit the exact point. As an engineer, I’ve been taught, and there is empirical evidence, that “energy, cannot be created or destroyed, it only exists and changes states.”

      A human body, is basically water, carbon, and minerals, forming, among other things, a battery. It has the ability to change the state of energy we consume and convert it into mechanical tasks, and more important to my point, thought. So, perhaps, “who we are” is a genetic + real life experience stored on an organic computer on a bio mechanical machine, as directed by electric impulses across our nerves.

      SO, our bodies, just like our cars, wear out – leaving the energy that ran the whole thing, held the cells together, pulsed across out synapses, A.K.A. “life force”, to change state and move on to the next thing. I’m inclined to agree with your friend, the life force does leave, or, “changes state” right in front of her eyes.

      The question I ask is, regardless of state, does energy do what its physical environment compels it to do? is it ever possible for energy to remember? I.E. learn? Can pure energy ever be “self aware”? THAT is a thought that could make a god, scientifically, very possible. OR, the energy that changes state when I die ultimately becomes the “fizz” in someone’s coke.- a deep subject to be sure.

      Science is just barely aware of “dark energy”, perhaps the largest part of the physical universe – I’m going to go smoke another joint now….. ,

      • seanasbury says:

        This is the sort of conversation best held over a joint!
        That means…
        -one tiny atom in my fingernail could be–
        -Could be one little…
        tiny universe.

        But your point on energy awareness then brings us to the ever critical question — if god exists – is it infallible, perfect, above moral reproach? Or is it just…there… 🙂

      • Doug Siverly says:

        Afterthought – I BELIEVE in physics. Some of it can be empirically demonstrated as FACT. So, as for me, I take on FAITH, more and more will be either proven or discovered as we move along. If you consider worm holes, string theory, dark matter, dark energy, alternate universes, time travel – ALL predicted by physics – I suppose my belief system is “off the reservation” weirder than religion…..

  3. seanasbury says:

    As a sort of postscript, I should point out that I’ve long considered myself tolerant of other religions – while defending secularism and the intrusion of religion in to the government and/or public life — you know, a defender of the 1st Amendment…

    However, my respect for religion does have a line. Catholicism, along with Islam, have crossed that line. The lack of humanity exhibited by both these religions highlights neither should tolerate the criminal and barbaric behavior done in the name of and condoned by the religious elites.

  4. Frank steele says:

    I vote “irredeemably brainwashed”. I too was raised Catholic. The average catholic does zero study of their religion. let alone Christianity. I went to church when I was young more to look at the catholic girls than pay attention to the priest. Later in life I noticed it did appear to just be “A bunch of old people trying to get into heaven”. Why are most people Catholic? Because their parents were and that’s just what you do. On the opposite end of the spectrum I have gone to Chinese christian services, those people are very up-beat and eager, they have no tradition of an organized religion they have been indoctrinated to. Definitely a more fun crowd too.

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