Another victory in the war against Catholicism’s sadistic goal of keeping the poor as powerless as possible.
Agreed, but I think it’s not only Catholicism, but savage late capitalism what wants to keep the poor as powerless as possible…
Oh, it’s not just “late” capitalism. And it’s not like socialism in practice does away with the class divide. But at least societies based on market systems can understand the non-“moral” value of things like birth control.
Of course, its a mistake to anthropomorphize institutions/systems. To think of Catholicism/capitalism as having goals, rather than (varied and complex) effects, removes your ability to rationally and positively affect those entities. Only animals act towards ends, and only that on the surface.
Also, it does not help the discourse to assume that evil is de-facto comitted with the intent to do evil. Quite the opposite. The Pope genuinely thinks he’s doing good, and he doesn’t only do bad.
I have seen that, in the US, whenever there is a critique of capitalism as a asystem there is a tendency to think one then means “socialism”. As if there were no other choise, a la Fukuyama.
I’m not sure if all “societies based on market systems can understand the non-“moral” value of things like birth control”, either. Morality has traditionally (historically) made an excellent system/technique/discourse not only to strenghten the market system but to create it. Unless I am not understanding here what you mean by non-“moral”.
While it’s true -I suppose it’s used as a figure of speech that has indeed to be deconstructed- what Tawrin says re: “anthropomorphization” of system, I also believe, at the same time, that systems (ideology for example) does things. Thinking that only individuals (humans, anthropoi) do things implies a particular view of the world, and so does thinking that not only people can do things but that systems can.
This relates to this “banality of evil” rationale that I think is implied in the second paragraph of tawrin’s comment. Still, I remain dubious that “The Pope genuinely thinks he’s doing good”, just as I remain more than dubious that when Georgie uses words like “god”, “justice”, “evil”, “good” and “democracy” he really means he is “doing good”. Unless he is indeed a madman, of course.
What worries me about implying that institutional Catholicism’s take on birth control has nothing to do with late capitalism (without the quotation marks) is the virtual underlying notion that non-Catholics would do things different.
There may be a non-“moral” value of things like condoms here in the UK in comparison to my home country, Mexico, but then again in Mexico City at least you can can get free condoms almost everywhere if you know where to look for them (bars, clubs, rave parties, indie shops, community centers, et cetera). In order to get a free condom in the UK -in my experience- one has to go through all the institutional crap of the NHS. And condoms are truly expensive things.
In a city like Guadalajara, a society based on a market system, private pharmacies can choose not to sell/stock condoms, and some of them actually do so and it’s impossible to buy them.
But “freeing” birth control in countries like Brazil or Mexico is not enough to “give power to the poor”. It’s the general state of (financial, educational, political) hopelessness supurred by a system run by multinational corporations that seek quick profit thorugh the unethical, inust exploitation of the poor what keeps the status quo. Wal Mart may sell condoms or birth control pills, but its employees in Mexico can’t afford them.
“. . .Catholicism’s sadistic goal of keeping the poor as powerless as possible” — huh?
And of course, I can’t forget to mention:
Thank you for those links, Rocco.
And sure, I’ve been also reading, as a coincidence, Simone Weil’s Oppression and Liberty. She was a Christian thinker who criticized Marxism negatively while remaining loyal to the cause of the oppressed. Edith Stein is another religious thinker who comes to mind in this debate.
Even though I am not a practicing Catholic, my family is, though. It’s my background. And I know that while institutional Catholicism has been traditionally (and de facto) linked to the most conservative, reactionary political right wing, I think it is insertion within a larger system what should be questioned, if we are to think about these problems seriously.
One more for emphasis, then I’ll go back to lurking:
a couple of clarifications:– By pointing out that it’s not just “late” capitalism I mean that these problems are not recent and are not necessarily related to capitalism (as it exists theoretically). There is no pure capitalism in the world, so it’s hard to say what would work– or perhaps it’s easy to say that capitalism never really works. – By juxtaposing “socialism” offhandedly I do not mean to say that capitalism and socialism are the only options or that they exist in pure form in the world.– Anthropomorphizing systems is fairly easy to do when a) systems only work in the real world because of the people who run them or are run over by them; b) Christianity, for one, is logically centered around anthropomorphization, from the first page of Genesis to the totality of the New Testament.
Catholic missions may, on occassion, help people. But the entire premise of Christianity is to keep the poor poor (and here it should perhaps be noted that Capitalism is an outgrowth of a Judeo-Christian culture). The end goal of Catholic missions isn’t to help people with their lives on earth but to convert them for some reward in the afterlife.
Religions, market systems, and any other ideology that doesn’t promote birth control, abortion rights and sex education is, whether it means to or not, causing irreparable harm to the poor. It’s as simple as that– we don’t even have to get into things like the right of a woman to control her body. What about the right of a man or woman not to have 6 mouths to feed? The histories of Catholic countries is proof enough that Catholicism hurts.
I’m picking on Catholicism because of the plight of countries south of the southern U.S. border. But I would just as soon say this about any Christian denomination.
Matthew 5:5 (Luke 6:24-25); Psalms 37.
I am not arguing the birth control issue here. I hope it is clear we are “on the same side” in that question.
It’s statements like ” the entire premise of Christianity is to keep the poor poor (and here it should perhaps be noted that Capitalism is an outgrowth of a Judeo-Christian culture)” what bothers me.
“Poor” in what sense? What Christianity?
And, couldn’t we might as well say that
” But the entire premise of globalized, unfair, unethical, exploitative Capitalism is to keep the poor poor?”
…and the wealty and powerful wealthy and powerful?”
Far be it from me to *defend* Capitalism. As you say, it is also constructed for the rich to remain rich as the poor remain poor. But it is a product of a Calvinist age, and as the US practices it, it is a product of Protestant beliefs. The myths that keep capitalism going– the “American Dream” myth, the “integrity of the working class” myth– are straight out of Christian doctrine (the Elect, the meek who will inherit the Kingdom of God).
With regard to the class oppression there is not such a difference between Catholicism and Protestantism. Both rest on the belief that the poor (in material goods) are rich (in moral standing) and will become richer (in the afterlife). This is a way to pacify the downtrodden. Whether pacifist means of rebellion (Luke 20:25) are effective in this life or any other is debatable, but is perhaps a different debate than this one.
The reformers in South America in the past decade have not pitted themselves against the church, except for specific reforms such as gay rights in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez called Christ ‘the greatest socialist in history.’ The impetus for Mexican independence from Spain came from the Catholic clerics (Hidalgo and Morelos).
“And it’s not like socialism in practice does away with the class divide. But at least societies based on market systems can understand the non-“moral” value of things like birth control.”
Cuba has had the highest rate of abortion in Latin America for the past 45 years, which are provided safely by the government, while most abortions in other Latin American countries are performed illegally.
Exactly. And who benefits from illegal abortions in a country like Mexico? No one else but the private hospitals! (And American ones too, in the case of those who can afford to travel and pay the fees…)
It’s true that Jesus Christ is perceived as a “working class hero”. Son of a Carpenter, in many current interpretations he is perceived a defender of the oppressed (even Monty Python made a joke about that, and a strong case at it as well, in the Life of Brian).
I would like to say a few things and ask a few questions:
a) Mexico is not South America, Mexico is North America. b) Why is it useful to think about this in terms of what religion “does” or “does not” to abortion rights? The problem with seeing these issues through the lens of religion is that you begin to argue with faith and beliefs versus facts and reality. I know this may seem naive, but in all honesty, every time I have had to discuss abortion with close friends who are Catholics, we always end up in a loop, whereby they cannot argue beyond accusing women who abort of being “murderers” and I cannot get passed repeating that such an accusation is based on a conviction not reality, as it flattens all the complexities of the problem. c) I have to agree with Ernesto, what poor? what Christianity?d) In Mexico, Catholic influence not withstanding, many “poor” people are not Catholic, and this is why blaming it on religion is tricky, most of these people are actually dealing with ignorance and the fact that they lack the means to i) buy contraceptives b) think about why they should use them, not only to avoid having more mouths to feed but to avoid catching std’s (and the different branches of Christianity such as evangilism and by-products of born again Christian influence are gaining popularity).
Just a few points:
Catholicism, when understood to be the actual thoughts, deeds, and words of both lay, religious, and ecclesiastical Catholics in the world and not necessarily just what the Vatican states that good Catholics should be doing, thinking, and saying, is actually fairly ideologically diverse. What I was trying to show was that there is a long Catholic tradition of service towards and standing in solidarity w/ the poor. Your characterization of Catholic mission work is inaccurate; proselytization is no longer the ultimate goal of Catholic mission work. When “ministering” to the poor, it is their coporeal, material needs that Catholic mission workers try to meet. The Catholic Church has several mission ventures in Latin America, but since the marjority of Latin Americans are already Catholic, conversion to the faith is simply not a goal there.
As far as Catholicism and capitalism, both John Paul II and Benedict XVI have spoken out against and offered critiques of laissez-faire free markets (http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0404-33.htm) (http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/americas/05/13/pope.brazil.ap/index.html) (This last article actually provides a brief glimpse of the ideological diversity of Catholicism when it mentions that Benedict has spoken out against “Marxist influences that have motivated some grass-roots Catholic activists, remnants of the Liberation theology he moved to crush when he was a cardinal.” This is a reference, I take it, to the work of Oscar Romero in El Salvador: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archbishop_Romero)
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