Anyone who has ever picked up a newspaper, walked by a church, taken a history class, or read even a page of the Bible, knows that the Catholic Church (often referred to as ‘The Church’ since Catholic is a term applied as universal), has committed its fair share of heinous acts. Already there are some who will be quick to contest this statement, but they’re wrong, and are complicit in the Church’s ability to carry out these acts by coming to its defense. Given the number of religious authorities in the world, and the number of atrocities committed by each, it is perhaps best then that focus be placed on one, so as to be able to list only 15 without losing too much significance.
Now, the Church can be likened to a tree that has just a few bad apples (though in this case many bad apples), but given that it takes the biting of only one apple between two people to ensure humankind’s quick ass-kicking out of paradise to work the land themselves, and bare children in extreme pain, one might suggest that being at the very top is the real (debatable term) culprit, and people just happen to be what people are: animals; evolved animals with adrenal glands that are too big, and a lack of brain network activation between the frontal lobes and the cerebellum. Animals that, like all other animals, react out of fear, desperation, threats, hunger, greed, prowess, procreation, and love.
Humankind is not so unique as the assumptions of faith might have one thinking it is, and from lies, to slaughter; prohibitions to rampant disease; cultural assimilation to genocide: the Church has committed some heinous crimes. Some of which people say one should forget, being so long ago in the past, but some are very fresh, and indeed very frightening.
15. Is The Good Book Actually Good?
Besides it being one of the most boring works of fiction ever penned (and that’s saying a lot since Tolkien did spend twenty pages describing a tree, and was a Catholic himself), even with all of the war, murder, incest, demons, disasters, torture, and miracles, the messages people use to convey the “truth” of God and his power and love need to be cherry-picked from a sordid sea of slaughter and sin. Take the Grimm’s Fairy Tales: dark, murderous tales, scaring children into good behaviour so adults could go about their day without needing to nurture as much (and Karl Marx seemed to incorporate a great deal of these stories into his work, oops). Then comes Disney, making these horror stories classic, moral stories of love in spite of adversity. Cue the Bible, written over a span of 1500 years, by over 40 men; a collection of folklore and supposed accounts of history, giving permission for genocide, rape, the stoning of witches and homosexuals… it goes on. The homily of most Catholic churches today is akin to the Disney spin of the Grimm tales of old. Just know there’s something darker behind it.
14. The Church vs. Contraception
Not very many years ago, during the near medieval reign of the second last pope: Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), there was a great deal of turmoil thanks to the declarations of the Church. Among the many faux pas that Ratzinger committed, including secreting child molesters and rapists of the clergy into parishes they could administer to without impunity, he stated on a trip to Africa that AIDS was “a tragedy…that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems”. With over 20 million AIDS sufferers in Africa alone, where over 1 million adults and children die of the disease each year, the Pope had the nerve to say that condoms (which, even when considering the average rate of breakage, still statistically protect from infection 80-85% of the time) make AIDS worse! Basically, Ratzinger was content to condemn millions of Africans to a painful death. Though, for some reason, priests who were seen to have contracted AIDS were quickly, clearly medicated, unlike the average population and, if they didn’t survive, were buried without acknowledgement of the cause, or the possible widow or child they left behind. The Church: a study in hypocrisy.
13. The Crusades… All Nine Of Them
For almost 200 years, Christian authorities waged war to spread the “good news” of their faith, and stop the spread of the Muslim faith. In that time, millions of men, women, and children died in many horrible ways. The exact number of losses is unknown due to poor record-keeping at the time, but the best academic estimates place the number in the millions. Beginning with Pope Urban II, the crusades granted warriors passage to Heaven, no matter what sins they may have, or might continue to have committed. There were even a number of Children’s Crusades, out of France and Germany that saw the capture, enslavement, and death of tens of thousands of children who thought, thanks to teachings from the Bible, that the seas would part for them, giving them passage to take the Holy Land for God. If the actions, or lack thereof, of the parents of these children is any indication of the morality of the Christian faith…
12. God’s Issue With People’s “Orientation”
To be fair, the above photo is of the late Pastor Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church, which really is a fringe element of the Protestant Christian population, but the message he carries does certainly pervade many Protestant and Catholic minds (for all they agree on, one might think Protestants and Catholics would get on better). Either way, the amount of gay bashing in the Bible is actually much less than what is expounded upon in churches all over the world today. Perhaps just going to show that it is simply a man-made issue/order against homosexuality come mainly from the higher ups, who then, like a bigoted pyramid scheme, share the wealth of knowledge to others, and so on down the pyramid to those who become victims of the scheme (which can mean, still today: beatings, persecution, and death). Given that all people were created equal in the perfect image of God, it’s strange to think that one’s sexual preference is such an issue. If God made them, aren’t they just perfect people like everyone else?
11. Save Me Jesus, From Genocide!
If the death toll attributed to Christian endeavours was in the form of an analog clock-like counter, it would become a fan, so fast would the counter spin. The Crusades can be placed here, in their attempt to rid the world of Muslims, with millions dead. So too can the Bosnian, and Rwandan genocides be added, with about a million deaths between them. For the Church’s silence during Hitler’s Holocaust, as well as their being the first to treat with and sign a deal with the Fuhrer, the horrible slaughter of up to 6 million Jews, 1.8 million non-Jewish Polish civilians, 300 thousand Serbs, 200 thousand Romany, and many others. An interesting fact about the Nazi party and the Catholic Fuhrer is the slogan which appeared on their belts “Gott mit uns”, which translates to “God with us”. Throw in with this terrible laundry list the Inquisition, the assimilation of North American natives, the 30 Years’ War, the French Wars of Religion, and countless other forms of in and out fighting, not counting God’s crimes against humanity in the Bible (more than double the number here), puts the blood of well over 20 million people on the hands of The Church.
10. The Magdalene Asylums
Mostly occurring in Ireland, the Magdalene Asylums were institutions that held women who were accused of prostitution and/or sexual promiscuity to receive “treatment” for their sins. Forced into slave labour, these women were abused both physically and sexually by the Church authorities who ran the asylums. As many as 30 thousand women were committed to these asylums, and these institutions did not come under any form of scrutiny until 1993 when 155 bodies were uncovered in a mass grave in North Dublin. The Church-run asylum had buried 155 women, without notifying authorities or families, and so 155 un-certified dead lay together, under the eyes of the Church. The Irish government paid out at least 45 million dollars to the survivors of the dreaded institutions after the UN Committee Against Torture urged the government to make amends, but the Church has yet to issue an apology, or contribute, in any way, to the recovery of the survivors, or the victims’ families.
9. The Concordat Of 1933
That’s right, the Church made a deal with Hitler, in order to ensure the safety of the Church and its alleged 20 million European souls (which is interesting considering WWII saw the death of over 60 million people anyway). Now since then, Pope John Paul II has apologized for the Catholic silence during Hitler’s Shoah, and many have made a point to acknowledge the few thousand Jews secreted in the Pope’s own summer palace, but somehow these points seem paltry in comparison to the mayhem the Church could likely have helped avoid, if it stood on its own proposed morality. If ever there was a time to launch a crusade, this would have been a perfect time. Instead, the Church gave up millions of both Christians, and non-Christians, in order to remain a supposedly impartial group, fearing the success of Hitler. But given the power the Church had wielded in the past, it is a wonder it didn’t raise an army and sweep over Nazi Germany before the Fuhrer had a chance to annex Poland. Apparently with great power comes great moral ambiguity.
8. Praising Abusers And Their Patrons
Won’t someone please think of the children!? Not only was the previous pope, Joseph Ratzinger, a Hitler youth once upon a time, but he is a key component in the Church’s cover-up and protection of a small army of pastoral pedophiles. The very man responsible for covering up years of child abuse and rape, forcing priests and children, on pain of excommunication not to talk about any dirty deeds until the child had reached the age of majority, and even then, often paid out for silence, or moved accused priests to parishes that knew little of them, creating a fertile breeding ground for the pedophile yet again, is the man who would become Pope! Thankfully no longer the pontiff, Joseph Ratzinger, once Pope John Paul II’s right hand, had incredible knowledge of the goings on between priests and their young flocks. Over 2 billion dollars have been spent by the church to settle abuse scandals and silence the abused. Both Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI are guilty of letting these scandals through, and while Benedict XVI did defrock 384 offending priests, he also re-frocked several previously offending priests, their crimes clearly absolved, or at least forgotten long enough that they could join in the fray once again.
7. Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice
Yes, this is indeed a touchy subject, and while pro-life and pro-choice are often muddled by grey areas, in-fighting, and often horrific crimes, the Church’s stance on and involvement in the debate are very clear. No choice, whatsoever, would be the call from above regarding the sanctity of life and the murderous act that is abortion. In the case of Sister Margaret McBride, for example, who sat on the ethics committee of a hospital observing the case of a young woman who would, along with her fetus, die if the pregnancy was not terminated. Opting to at least save one life, rather than lose two, the nun, and the rest of the committee, voted to allow the abortion, saving the woman’s life. Not much more than 24 hours later, McBride was excommunicated from the Church, for saving a life, rather than killing two for her faith. The repulsively myopic order from the Vatican is in no way in touch with the reality of everyday life: favouring, for example, the fruition of a pregnancy begot of rape, rather than the sparing of that victim, the full torturous term of carrying the reminder of the day her life was terribly altered forever.
6. Residential Schools
Still an enormous problem in Canada, and reaching as far back as the days of Columbus, the assimilation and abuse of indigenous peoples has been an incredible blotch on the Catholic record. After the near annihilation of many native tribes over three hundred years, the Church built so-called residential schools where native children, often forced away from their family, barely ever, if ever to see them again, would be indoctrinated into the Catholic faith, while being physically, and sexually assaulted, starved, and otherwise persuaded out of their previously held beliefs. Out of over 150 thousand native and metis children, there is an estimated 6,000 who did not return home, many of whom lie in unmarked graves. During his reign, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made an apology to all those who suffered at the hands of the clergy in residential schools. That’s all well and good, except inaction has rendered that apology meaningless. While churches in Canada have been engaged in talks regarding making amends for the hundred years of horror they have wrought on these tribes, the half-hearted, slightly forced apology of the criminal Pope Benedict XVI did little to change anything.
5. Nobody Expects The Spanish Inquisition!
In a classic case of kicking Jews to the curb, the Church granted authority to Spain to forcibly convert or cast away heretics, and Jews, many of whom fled to Portugal, where the Church then granted authority to expel Jews and heretics there as well. An inquisition in Italian papal states against Protestantism also arose. From 1478-1834, there were tribunals for inquisition, even in America. Only with the advancement of the Enlightenment, and the French, under Napoleon, did the inquisitional tribunals begin to fade, favouring the conversion of Muslims, Protestants, witches, and homosexuals to the execution of anyone. In the end, a likely 3-5 thousand people were put to death during the 356 years of inquisition, but the effect this sort of power had on the advancement of science was significant. Placing Galileo under permanent house arrest for pushing the Copernican system of the cosmos, and burning Giordano Bruno at the stake for proposing his thoughts on what would later be referred to as the multiverse theory.
4. Bill Nye Says “Science Rules”
For centuries, the Church has taken issue with the scientific community, and yes, while much of scientific advancement has come from incredibly faithful people, the predominant reason for this is that to be anything other than a practising Christian at the time would have ended any progress. Loosening its stance on a number of things like accepting that the Earth revolved around the Sun, and that evolution is a fact (though the church maintains something called “theistic evolution”), the Church is still very slow with accepting scientific progresses like contraception, abortion, and stem cell research. There are other, less important issues one could mention, like miracles, resurrection (not just of Jesus), creationism, Lourdes, and so on, but while these are significant to the religious community, they are not so easy to pervade the skeptical mind of most non-believers. The impact though, on the attempted stunting of study on stem cell research and evolution, and the ludicrous lobbying against contraception and abortion, end up unwittingly leaving a lot more blood on the hands of the Church.
3. Mother Teresa…
Famously outed by author and orator Christopher Hitchens saying “Mother Teresa was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty… She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women… She was a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud, and a church that officially protects those who violate the innocent has given us another clear sign of where it truly stands on moral and ethical questions”, Mother Teresa accepted money from known criminals, set up nunneries all over the world, instead of pouring money into her “houses of the dying” where dying people on crowded stretcher-strewn floors were kept from their friends and families, as they passed away from disease and deprivation, medicated with not much more than aspirin and reused, un-sterilized needles. Many had failed to receive relatively simple procedures to save their lives because the nuns would do nothing to take them to hospital. Looking around her macabre un-medicated houses of the dying, Teresa turned to Hitchens and said “This is how we fight abortion and contraception in Calcutta.”
2. The Execution Of William Tyndale
Himself a priest, Tyndale spoke many languages and believed that the word of God should be available to the laymen of England, and so, set out to translate the Bible into the English language. In addition to this apparently grievous translation, Tyndale maintained that one needed only to have faith and believe in the forgiveness of sins and the mercy offered in the Bible in order to receive salvation, and that people should not pray to the saints or the virgin Mary, but should only pray to God. The Church, with its lust for control and its pantheon of saints, could scarcely have this sort of illumination come from one of its own, so they captured Tyndale, tried him, relieved him of his holy orders, and delivered him to the crown for punishment (in an attempt to wash his blood from their hands). Tyndale was then hanged and burned at the stake. One of those calling for the capture of Tyndale was Thomas More, who then put people on the rack for owning a Bible in English, and later became the patron saint of politicians— makes sense, given how crooked this man was.
1. The Wealth Of The Vatican
The Vatican holds 64 billion dollars in assets, 764 million dollars in equity, and over 20 million dollars worth of gold in the US Federal Reserve. For all of this wealth, much of which was stolen from the poorest of the poor, gained over centuries of murder and mayhem, and even some gold form previously Nazi stores, the Vatican seems incapable of truly helping the needy in ways other than spiritual. Just looking at the photo above, the gigantic room, the artwork, the chairs, the finery; the decadence! How many millions would be saved to use for actual good if priests went as plain-clothed as Jesus? The very saviour of the Christian faith would be so ill to go to the Vatican and see the overwhelming opulence therein. It has been estimated that to end world hunger would cost $30 billion per year. That means that, with its current value, plus its over 300 million dollar annual income, reducing expenses by living by Christ’s example and teaming up with other organizations already pooling millions of dollars, the Catholic Church could actually stand to be a force for good, with 1/15th of the money needed to end a whole year of world hunger. WWJD?