Today’s New York Times features a full-page open letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation addressed to liberal and nominal Catholics, headlined It’s Time to Consider Quitting the Catholic Church. (pdf) As if to underscore the point of running the letter in the first place, the Times required FFRF to alter its headline from “It’s Time to Quit the Catholic Church,” to “It’s Time to Consider Quitting the Catholic Church.”
Co-president of FFRF Dan Barker called that decision “disappointing” and “a sign of the Catholic Church’s inordinate power to intimidate and muzzle criticism.” The original text of the FFRF letter was also toned down and shortened quite a bit, but that was the organization’s decision, not The Times’. I like the original text better:
It’s time to quit the Roman Catholic Church.
It’s your moment of truth. Will it be reproductive freedom, or back to the Dark Ages? Do you choose women and their rights, or Bishops and their wrongs? Whose side are you on, anyway?
It is time to make known your dissent from the Catholic Church, in light of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops’ ruthless campaign endangering the right to contraception. If you’re part of the Catholic Church, you’re part of the problem.
Why are you propping up the pillars of a tyrannical and autocratic, woman-hating, sex-perverting, antediluvian Old Boys Club? Why are you aiding and abetting a church that has repeatedly and publicly announced a crusade to ban contraception, abortion and sterilization, and to deny the right of all women everywhere, Catholic or not, to decide whether and when to become mothers? When it comes to reproductive freedom, the Roman Catholic Church is Public Enemy Number One. Think of the acute misery, poverty, needless suffering, unwanted pregnancies, social evils and deaths that can be laid directly at the door of the Church’s antiquated doctrine that birth control is a sin and must be outlawed.
A backer of the Roman Catholic presidential candidate says that if women want to avoid pregnancy we should put an aspirin between our knees? Catholic politicians are urging that the right to contraception should be left up to states? Nearly 50 years after the Supreme Court upheld contraception as a privacy right, we’re going to have to defend this basic freedom all over again?
You’re better than your church. So why? Why continue to attend Mass? Tithe? Why dutifully sacrifice to send your children to parochial schools so they can be brainwashed into the next generation of myrmidons (and, potentially, become the next Church victims)? For that matter, why have you put up with an institution that won’t put up with women priests, that excludes half of humanity?
No self-respecting feminist, civil libertarian or progressive should cling to the Catholic faith. As a Cafeteria Catholic, you chuck out the stale doctrine and moldy decrees of your religion, but keep patronizing the establishment that menaces public health by serving
rotten offerings. Your continuing Catholic membership, as a “liberal,” casts a veneer of respectability upon an irrational sect determined to blow out the Enlightenment and threaten liberty for women worldwide.
You are an enabler. And it’s got to stop.
If you imagine you can change the church from within — get it to lighten up on birth control, gay rights, marriage equality, embryonic stem-cell research — you are deluding yourself. If you remain a “good Catholic,” you are doing “bad” to women’s rights. You’re kidding yourself if you think the Church is ever going to add a Doctrine of Immaculate ContraCeption.
It is disgraceful that U.S. health care reform is being held hostage to the Catholic Church’s bizarre opposition to medically prescribed contraception. No politician should jeopardize electability for failure to genuflect before the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
(Question to ask your Bishop: Does he hold up an umbrella against the rain? Isn’t that just as “unnatural” as using a condom or diaphragm?)
Your Church hysterically claims that secular medical policy is “an assault against religious liberty.” You are savvy enough to realize that the real assault is by the Church against women’s rights and health care. As Nation columnist Katha Pollitt asks: Is it an offense against Jehovah Witnesses that health care coverage will include blood transfusions? The Amish, as Pollitt points out, don’t label cars “an assault on religious liberty” and try to force everyone to drive buggies. The louder the Church cries “offense against religious liberty” the harder it works to take away women’s liberty.
Obama has compromised, but the Church never budges, instead launching a vengeful modern-day Inquisition. Look at its continuing directives to parish priests to use their pulpits every Sunday to lobby you against Obama’s policy, the Church’s announcement of a major anti-contraception media campaign — using your tithes, contributions and donations — to defeat Obama’s laudable health care policy. The Church has introduced into Congress the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, ” a bill to place the conscienceless Catholic Church’s “rights of conscience” above the rights of conscience of 53 percent of Americans. That the Church has “conscience rights” to deny women their rights is a kissing cousin to the claim that “corporations are people.” The Church that hasn’t persuaded you to oppose contraception now wants to use the force of secular law to deny contraceptive rights to non-Catholics.
But is there any point in going on? After all, your misplaced loyalty has lasted through two decades of public sex scandals involving preying priests, children you may have known as victims, and church complicity, collusion and coverup going all the way to the top. Are you like the battered woman who, after being beaten down every Sunday, feels she has no place else to go?
But we have a more welcoming home to offer, free of incense-fogged ritual, free of what freethinker Bertrand Russell called “ideas uttered long ago by ignorant men,” free of blind obedience to an illusory religious authority. Join those of us who put humanity above
As a member of the “flock” of an avowedly antidemocratic club, isn’t it time you vote with your feet?
Please, exit en Mass.
Here is some good news: FFRF was able to raise $52,000 to run the piece in a single weekend. Of course that’s a pittance compared to what the Catholic church takes into its coffers on any Sunday.
I am a long-time member of FFRF and have met co-presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and her husband Dan Barker on several occasions over the years. They are charming and kind, and generally refrain from the kind of fiery rhetoric that defines much of so-called New Atheism. Theirs is the patient voice that can calmly and eloquently tell Catholic bishops to go fuck themselves without dropping the F-bomb even once. It’s a useful and important tactic with broad appeal, one that I am constitutionally incapable of deploying. Even so, the work they do is often thankless, or worse: the illiterate hate mail and death threats they routinely receive are truly disturbing, and hardly speak well of the benevolent influence of religion. No doubt they’re about to get another shitstorm of criticism from the deeply deluded and their defenders. But my only criticism of the letter is that it’s way too nice: if I were to write it, it would undoubtedly feature as much mockery, contempt, derision and ridicule as I could muster.
Which is probably one reason why I am not the co-president of anything. Well, that, and the fact that I insist on ruling as a monarch.