Wednesday, April 20, 2005

What is the Purpose of the Catholic Church?

With the selection of a new Pope, it seems that nearly everyone in the MSM is disappointed. I asked a Catholic friend. He says that it is to help in the salvation of souls. I suspect that Pope Benedict XVI has a similar view.

I've been writing about the role of religion in politics, I might as well write something about the role of religion in the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church is one of the oldest institutions in existence. It traces its existence back to the disciples of Christ himself. It is also the last vestige of the Roman Empire. For most of that time, for a significant portion of humanity, the Church has been the arbiter of what is proper in society. An institution like that has to take the long view. Women's rights and gay rights are popular now. Will they be in fifty years?

Gay marriage has never been tried on a large scale before, anywhere. This is a social experiment. Should the Church endorse it? What happens if it turns out badly? It turns out that being a single parent, either through divorce or because you were never married in the first place has a negative effect on children. Should the Church go ahead and accept it anyway because it has grown common in the last generation?

If you think that these are easy questions, either yes or no, then you are not really examining them.

To go beyond that, how active a role should the Church take in the modern world? Newsweek's Melinda Henneberger seems to think that the Church should worry about feeding the hungry and fighting injustice as its primary role.
The smoke and bells can’t mask the fact that feeding the hungry and fighting injustice is no longer the emphasis for the religion I have loved all my life
On Nightline, Cokie Roberts launched into a tirade about how the church should act.

After listening to weeks of people on screen telling us what the Catholic Church should be I've come to the conclusion that what they want is something with the trappings of the church but without the religious baggage. Sort of like Universal Unitarians except with robes an incense or possibly the Church of Buddy Christ.

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