A Loyal Reader™ directed my attention to an excellent rant by The Atheist Camel, entitled Why I despise Catholicism and those who keep it alive. As it turns out, this missive was particularly timely.
I attended a Catholic funeral yesterday. I was appalled — as I always am — with the over-the-top opulence, the ridiculous and elaborate rituals and the utter tripe spewing forth. How anyone can find this religion a source of comfort or benevolent inspiration is entirely beyond me. Nevertheless, if that were all the Catholic church served up to the world, I would never begrudge anyone their indulgences in such folly. But as we all know, that is hardly the case.
Another correspondent drew a parallel between the massive sexual abuse coverup scandals surrounding the resigning pope to those surrounding Joe Paterno, the late Penn State football coach, who for years covered up the serial sexual abuse of boys by a colleague. The analogy is perfectly apt: protecting the reputation of their respective institutions and the associated revenue streams above all else, including the safety of children (and in the church’s case, of women), drove the ugly, unforgivable behavior of both men. But I would add that in both cases, i.e. the Vatican and Penn State’s football program, there is something else driving the coverups, maybe even more than the money: one’s personal identification with an institution, longstanding personal investment in it, and the plethora of rewards and satisfactions one derives from one’s position in it such as community status, worshipful acolytes, and a profound sense of power and control. Ergo, ego.
At the church yesterday, I sat next to a Jewish inlaw who has back problems, as I do. She did not know the words to the prayers or the expected responses; I knew some of them (e.g. the Lord’s Prayer) but kept silent. Stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, turn around and shake hands = yeah, okay, fine, whatever. And then came the command: “Please kneel.”
KNEEL? Are you fucking kidding me?
Um, no. We were not going to do that. I watched as the elderly mother of My Amazing Lover™ struggled with her cane in an effort to kneel. She finally gave up, sitting back down in the pew in obvious pain, looking upset and embarrassed.
I realized long ago that it provides a monster ego boost for clergy to order parishioners to move around like that and to hear them respond in unison — not to mention the enjoyment of a captive audience sitting (or keeling…) in rapt attention and following one’s every word. I have never met a single clergyperson of any sect who was not in love with the sound of his own voice projecting high above the heads of the parishioners, all eyes on him. They are talentless attention seekers on a power trip, the lot of them. No matter what good intentions may have drawn an individual to the priesthood (and I don’t doubt that some do have altruistic motives in the mix — the monsignor presiding over the funeral mass yesterday was appropriately kind toward the mourners after the service), at some point he understands that this is the greatest gig he will ever have: a steady source of narcissistic supply, and power over dozens (or hundreds, or thousands) of people. While money undoubtedly drives decisions at the highest levels of the Vatican hierarchy, at the clergy level it’s the ego: an exercise of the basest, most infantile authoritarian impulse for attention and control. That is the motive that accounts for how apparently easy it was to rope so many non-offending priests into the service of unconscionable coverups and the silencing of child rape victims.
Go read The Atheist Camel. He is on fire with this one.