Religion

Top 6 Ways The Catholic Church is Trying to Stay Relevant

Today I learned that the Pope has graciously allotted six magical days during his trip to Madrid during which priests will be allowed to forgive the sin of getting an abortion. (I wonder if that 9-year old Brazilian rape victim can afford a ticket to Madrid? Answer: probably not!) Daniela of Esceptica will be reporting on it more, but in the meantime fellow Skepchick Mindy suggested that this Abortion Amnesty Week is part of the Vatican’s plan to remain relevant, which led me to wonder what else they might be trying. Well, I looked into it and you won’t believe some of the great ideas they have in store!

6. The iPope App*
For just $7,000, you can download an app for your iPhone that will show a video of the Pope waving at you from several hundred feet away. Tapping buttons on the screen will allow you to virtually genuflect, clutch your rosary, and feel bad about yourself for being such a terrible sinner.

5. Pope-i-mon for GameBoy Advance
“Saint Margaret the Barefooted, I choose you!” Collect all your favorite saints and then train them to battle for you. Will Saint Gereon save you from a major headache when Scholastica uses her seizure attack? The only way to find out is to play!

4. Sin-gled Out
In this crazy new reality show, 12 adolescents compete to be the least sinful according to Catholic doctrine! The winner gets a personal one-on-one Bible study with a well-respected Catholic priest who has just recently moved to the area.

3. Toilet Papal (pictured)**
Celebrate your love of the Pope with this very special toilet paper!  Whether you’re throwing it over telephone wires or doing something else with it, use it in whatever way best represents your feelings toward the Pope.

2. Unlimited Blood of Christ Refills with Each Eucharist from 4pm-6pm Fridays
The best part about being a Catholic – drinking in Church – is about to get even better! During “Happy Hour,” devoted Catholics will be allowed all the blood they can drink, plus half-priced appetizers served on Eucharist wafers.

1. Pope Pin-up Calendar***
Do you wish you could see more of the Pope? Much, much more? Good news! This calendar will help you identify which Saint’s day is coming up tomorrow and which mole on the beloved Pontiff’s upper thigh is most in need of biopsy.

*This one is actually true. Sort of. Find out more about the Vatican’s iPhone app, Twitter page, Facebook profile, and YouTube channel at the hilariously named Pope2U.net!

**The Catholic Church didn’t make it, but yeah, it’s true!

***Got ya, this one was kind of true, too!

 

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Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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23 Comments

  1. Regarding the abortion forgive-a-thon:

    This is a limited time offer! See your local Church or Honda dealer for details. Indulgences may be subject to approval. Limit two per customer. Act now and receive a free gift of a relic as long as supplies lasts! If you aren’t satisfied, return the forgiveness, but keep the saint’s finger bone. It’s our way of saying thanks for trying Catholicism. Promotional blackout periods may apply. Additional guests may be subject to additional charges. Offer is not combinable with other promotional or rate offers. Void where prohibited. Residents of New Jersey may be subject to additional taxes.

    Call 1-800-POPE-WOW or go to http://www.pope-wow.com and wipe your carpet stains, and sins, away!

  2. You know, I was raised Catholic, and I seem to recall church doctrine saying that ANY sin could be forgiven if you confessed them, and the proper spells and incantations were recited by a priest. And there was something about being truly repentant in your heart, but that part was secondary to telling your dirty secrets to a celibate old man.

    When was abortion put in its own special category?

    1. I was raised catholic too and for a time I was pretty hardcore about it. That’s what they say, that any sin can be forgiven. But once you’re in the confessional, things are a little different then they claim them to be. Sometimes, forgiveness is conditional and not all priests will forgive divorce, birth control, etc. Hearing the comment “I’m going to see this priest because he forgives divorce” might have been a little shocking at first for me, but it’s not at all uncommon.

    2. Receiving or participating in an abortion is an automatic excommunication from the church.

      Basically, the confessional works for the small sins that everyone commits but the really big ones (murder, abortion) are too large for an individual to really repent for and you’re likely to go to hell regardless.

      With abortion being an auto-excomm you are ineligible for participation in the Catholic sacraments, so even if you went in and confessed it wouldn’t do you any good since you were cast out of the body of the Church.

      The thing that annoys me (and I replied to Amanda Marcotte on Twitter when she posted this article) this was what I considered my one solid ticket out of the church. They took away the ability of people in the US to officially renounce their baptism so aiding as an escort at PP was going to be my plan to get excommunicated. *harrumph*

      1. Nope. Again, argue agin the Church’s teaching, but make sure you know what those teachings actually are: in this instance, that belief is that even “the really big ones” can be absolved. A person who repents is not going to hell regardless.

        “…even if you went in and confessed it wouldn’t do you any good since you were cast out of the body of the Church.” You’re not correct here, because by going to a bishop and saying, “I’d like to repent of the sin of abortion” he can straight away hear that confession and lift the excommunication. “Cast out of the body of the Church” sounds dramatic but isn’t the whole picture.

        “… this was what I considered my one solid ticket out of the church. They took away the ability of people in the US to officially renounce their baptism so aiding as an escort at PP was going to be my plan to get excommunicated. *harrumph*”
        Are you sure about that? As far as I’m aware you can still formally apostasise in the US. I find it interesting that former Catholics feel like they need a “solid ticket out” – I guess I’d feel the same way if I left. Like a definite break or shedding of skin or liberation?

  3. Hi Rebecca. Some factual errors in your piece – any argument you want to make against what the Catholic Church believes will be strengthened by getting your facts straight.
    The article you’ve linked to is less than rigorous in its understanding of what the Church says about abortion, sin, excommunication (a word you don’t even use in your wee piece) and World Youth Day.
    World Youth Day is a Catholic event which features, among other things, much use of the sacrament of penance (or confession).
    The Church teaches that Catholics who’ve been involved in abortion in some way (a woman, her partner or parents, doctors who perform abortions etc)are automatically excommunicated (which means – briefly – that they’re still Catholics but can’t receive communion) and that excommunication can only be lifted by certain priests (given that role by their bishop). At WYD however, the bishop of Madrid (as is his right) has given every priest there the authority to lift that penalty.
    So it’s not, as Marcotte has it, a special event set up just for women who’ve had abortions.
    Is it the Church “trying to stay relevant”? If “relevant” means making it easy for Catholics to be reconciled with their Church and with Christ, then yeah.

    1. “At WYD however, the bishop of Madrid (as is his right) has given every priest there the authority to lift that penalty.
      “So it’s not, as Marcotte has it, a special event set up just for women who’ve had abortions.”

      So, it’s a special event set up just so some extra priests can perform the ritual for women who’ve had abortions. Great distinction.

      Hey, also, why did you omit this little nugget about excommunication? “Excommunication, however, is clearly distinguished from these penalties in that it is the privation of all rights resulting from the social status of the Christian as such. The excommunicated person, it is true, does not cease to be a Christian, since his baptism can never be effaced; he can, however, be considered as an exile from Christian society and as non-existent, for a time at least, in the sight of ecclesiastical authority.” — Catholic Encyclopedia

      This is cute too: ‘”Most people know it is a sin but many would not know it is also an excommunicable offense,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, senior fellow at Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. “In order to be excommunicated, you have to know it is an excommunicable offense before the abortion takes place. If you don’t, you are not excommunicated.’

      From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110818/LIFESTYLE04/108180400/Priests-forgive-abortion-at-World-Youth-Day#ixzz1VNyKCIte

      But, once you are no longer ignorant, the Church has every right to punish you, regardless of the double speak of calling it a ‘medicinal penalty’:

      Canon Law – 1311 The Church has the innate and proper right to coerce offending members of the Christian faithful with penal sanctions.

      Yup, “coerce”, and:

      2. The law can establish other expiatory penalties which deprive a member of the Christian faithful of some spiritual or temporal good and which are consistent with the supernatural purpose of the Church.

      Yup, ‘supernatural’, the part I object to most about the concept of ‘punishing’ a woman over a medical procedure. It’s based on a fantasy.

      And yes, I was born and raised a Catholic before I lost my faith. Yet, since my “baptism can never be effaced”, I’m still counted in the rolls. It’s like being posthumously baptized by Mormons. It’s absurd.

      1. “So, it’s a special event set up just so some extra priests can perform the ritual for women who’ve had abortions. Great distinction.”
        World Youth Day always features hundreds of priests hearing confessions. This time, the bishop of Madrid has made it clear that every priest can lift a “latae sententiae” excommunication. That’s the special thing this time round.
        Any excommunicated person in any diocese can be absolved by his or her bishop – they don’t have to go to Madrid as some commentators are implying (implying because, presumably, they haven’t taken the time to understand).
        You little nugget is correct, as far as it goes: the Encyclopedia is accurate but not official teaching. A severe penalty for severe actions: makes sense doesn’t it?

        1. “That’s the special thing this time round.” — ok, so we agree, that this is still not a TYPICAL thing done outside of an event like World Youth Day? There are only a handful of offenses that latae sententiae, unless there are a problem in Spain with fake priests presiding over Eucharist I didn’t know about. I don’t understand what you’re arguing. Yes, the Bishop of Madrid COULD allow the priests under him to listen to confessions about abortions, but didn’t until World Youth Day, which marks it as a “special occasion” for forgiving abortions.
          “the Encyclopedia is accurate but not official teaching. A severe penalty for severe actions: makes sense doesn’t it?” — How is it “accurate” if you are claiming that it’s “not official teaching”? And regardless of if it’s official or not, that is basically the gist of what Canon Law 1331 actually is explaining in terms of punishment. No, it doesn’t make sense…not the “crime” nor the “punishment” because it’s based on an assertion that you can be punished eternally for temporal sins on Earth without a lick of evidence. So, it’s by definition nonsensical.

          1. “I don’t understand what you’re arguing.”

            I don’t really understand what you’re arguing either. Don’t you love the internet?
            Any bishop does allow some (or all) priests in his diocese to lift excommunications, so priests in Madrid can do that, WYD or no WYD. This month, the bishop of Madrid is allowing all *visiting priests* in town for these six days to do the same. Is that clearer?

            “No, it doesn’t make sense…not the “crime” nor the “punishment” because it’s based on an assertion that you can be punished eternally for temporal sins on Earth without a lick of evidence. So, it’s by definition nonsensical.”

            Put that way of course it’s nonsensical. Here’s another way of putting it: we get after death what we wanted in life. The statement “If I have an abortion I’m going to hell” is not a Catholic statement. God’s judgement is not bigger than his mercy.
            The statement “If I continually choose my own self, my own good, my own ease, at the expense of those around me; if my whole orientation is me first in everything, I’ll get that (what I want) when I die: me, just me, for always” may well be.
            How many people, including people involved in abortion, actually say that? I suspect very few. The danger with any action is that it can lead to habit which can lead to that all-consuming selfishness.

      2. “This is cute too: ‘”Most people know it is a sin but many would not know it is also an excommunicable offense,” […] “In order to be excommunicated, you have to know it is an excommunicable offense before the abortion takes place. If you don’t, you are not excommunicated.’”
        Correct. Or if you’re under 16, or have been forced into it. Cute, or realistic and merciful?
        So Rebecca’s cute question about the 9-year-old who had an abortion being able to afford a trip to Madrid is revealed as more that a little artful.

        “But, once you are no longer ignorant, the Church has every right to punish you, regardless of the double speak of calling it a ‘medicinal penalty’:”

        Look: if you’re a Catholic and you have an abortion (or force your girlfriend or daughter into an abortion) and then want to continue on as normal the Church has every right to enforce its rules, and every right to call that Catholic home. Harsh medicine, yes; unreasonable, no.

        “Yup, ‘supernatural’, the part I object to most about the concept of ‘punishing’ a woman over a medical procedure. It’s based on a fantasy.”

        Except that one can, of course, argue without even talking about the supernatural against abortion being not just a “medical procedure”.

        1. “Or if you’re under 16, or have been forced into it. Cute, or realistic and merciful?
          So Rebecca’s cute question about the 9-year-old who had an abortion being able to afford a trip to Madrid is revealed as more that a little artful. ”

          Here’s the artful part…the 9-year-old was raped by her Stepfather and her pregnancy threatened her life. The mother and the doctor made a decision on her behalf to protect her under an ethically trying circumstance, I imagine, for everyone involved. However, because the great sin-tallying spirit in the sky apparently says so, the Catholic church excommunicated the family and the doctor involved. Ok, so not the girl, but my problem is that NO ONE deserves to be punished for making this decision. Now, to me, this would be no sweat, since the punishment would be completely imaginary, but put yourself in the shoes of that mom who made the best decision possible, should feel no regrets about it, but will have to apologize to “god’s authority” on Earth for protecting her child in order to stay in her chosen club.

          “Look: if you’re a Catholic and you have an abortion (or force your girlfriend or daughter into an abortion) and then want to continue on as normal the Church has every right to enforce its rules, and every right to call that Catholic home. Harsh medicine, yes; unreasonable, no.” — yes, the club can punish club members for breaking club rules. I think the point many of us are making is that the club’s rules are ridiculous, so why stay in the club?

          “Except that one can, of course, argue without even talking about the supernatural against abortion being not just a “medical procedure”.” — but you can’t argue Jesus’ position on the subject, the Church’s “sentencing” and the asserted afterlife consequences of such a sentence without the supernatural. You weren’t making any secular arguments against abortion. You were defending the penalty of excommunication which carries explicit threats of punishment after death. If you’re going to make non-supernatural arguments against abortion, do so…but when you say things like “If “relevant” means making it easy for Catholics to be reconciled with their Church and with Christ, then yeah” you’re being more than a little disingenuous.

  4. Pope-on-a-rope – for when you need to be blessedly clean in all your special places.

    Pope-o-stick – for scratching those sinful itches.

    The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Pope – erm… something about the Tell Tale Sacred Heart.

  5. It’s sad that a rape victim getting rid of the unwanted consequences of that rape is excommunicated. But that Belgian bishop who was tried and convicted of fondling (raping?) several young boys hasn’t been excommunicated, in fact, he’s still officially a bishop (although he’s been smart enough to leave Belgium rather than risking getting pelted with rotten tomatoes, or worse, wherever he goes).

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