This follows my blog: “Ha ha say animists.” An excerpt:
Cardinal George Pell engaged in a debate on Q&A presented by Tony Jones, ABC TV Monday night. The opposing speaker was Richard Dawkins, renowned scientist and atheist. The atmosphere was adversarial. Religious types jeered at some fumbles by Dawkins while a particularly ugly moment [Pell had just said: “we prepared the boys”] produced a nasty loud jeer. The anti-religionists of the audience clearly felt that Pell has never adequately publicly answered an accusation of the child abuse of altar boys during his ministry. Those issues aside, it must be admitted that theism cannot be discussed in depth especially within the adversarial, jeery atmosphere that Tony Jones enjoys fostering; at one point he snidely suggested that Pell was a believer of “intelligent design”.
Pell’s tactic was to describe the concept of the “soul” as “moving towards knowledge and goodness”; his tone was that of the scholar of divinity dumbing down concepts for a receptive but perhaps untutored audience. Sadly his listeners displayed no great memory of recent history. Pell described animals as having a soul; no one bothered to remember that while the bible urged humans to claim stewardship over animals, this had lately to be modified by calls for compassionate treatment. Worse, no feminist stood up to say that until recently, catholic theologians, misogynists in robes, believed that women did not possess souls. Later, Pell smarmily announced that catholics did not hate homosexuals. No one asked why he personally refused to give communion to gay protesters wearing the rainbow sash.
Yes both Pell and Dawkins debated chaos, creation and matter, evolution, random or otherwise. The field was broad, the matter complex. It is too easy to condemn Pell for his blunders, like describing the Israelite nation as inferior to Romans, Egyptians and Persians. He is a man of his mold; like others of his position, he rarely strays far from safe territory. Nancy Mitford in her spoof Pigeon Pie calls catholicism a “professional religion”; a nod from like to like, from her lofty vantage, an aristocrat embedded in Anglicanism . Buddhist monks are equally faulty and elitist. The sneers of Theravadan monks about lowly peasants and their superstitious ways have to be heard to be believed. I once has to correct a thesis on Japanese textiles by a student who insisted that Shintoism had nothing in common with animism; yet for a Japanese aristocrat Shinto rituals might as well have taken place inside Westminster Abbey.
At the end of the week that Geo. Pell’s contribution began, a session was held in Sydney to gather people’s opinions about a forthcoming challenge to the conservative definition of marriage in federal legislation: official catholic opinion would have been predictable (they don’t hate us: says George). Moslem and Hindu leaders were agin; bless their little, little shrunken hearts. We of course were raised to be open minded and hearted about multi-culturalism. Too late, they’re here now and prejudiced. Sadly an Anglican cleric proposed a concept of “gay marriage”; a funny relationship in other words, not a really really dinkum one. But he thought marriage for all couples? NO, he opined, THAT WOULD BE CONFUSING. Another theologian patronising the laity. See the French revolution got it right, throw ALL religious concepts out of national legislation; let religionists do what they want inside their stone caves, but in the town halls the celebrant would be entitled to join ALL couples of the democracy. That’s what the Greens Party proposes: we remove the traditional definition of marriage joining one man and one woman; substitute the words two people.What was beautiful about this gab fest was that a Jewish Liberal leader stepped forward; he said that he was shortly joining a group of people to tour the places of central Europe where jews gays and gypsies had all been murdered. It was time, he said, to remove all trace of the old prejudice from our minds and from our laws. Give that man a laurel crown for splendid, enlightened thought.
Today in Spain the trial commences of a Roman Catholic nun who alongside priests and doctors STOLE babies from Spanish mothers in labour wards. One mother who gave birth to twins but whose baby boy was stolen by a nurse in the hospital was REDUCED to trawling local schools that he might have attended. She wanted at least to see him once, before she died. Families victimised by such thefts must pay for DNA tests to prove familial links; such is the heartless unconcern by a pro-catholic conservative government.
We can argue the effects of the brutality of the Inquisition on the national Spanish psyche, or more recently the Spanish Civil War, and General Franco’s brutal dictatorship. BUT those discussions are academic in the most shrunken of terms; what remains clear is that roman catholicism is not an effective ethical system. It produced pedophilia: worldwide sexual abuse of altar boys by priests, those individuals of whom the highest standards of sanctity and at least probity might have been expected; its nuns behaved sadistically towards vulnerable orphans. Now this: flagrant theft and violation of just those feelings and relationships the church purports to foster. As an organisation it has no checks and balances, no transparency of process, no audit of its behaviour. It should not be allowed undue influence; unfortunately in Australia a majority of the judges currently sitting on the High Court are catholic.