Friday, November 13, 2009

The Catholic Church's Villainous Blackmail in Washington DC

The Catholic Church in America has decided to be an instrument for the perpetuation of bigotry and injustice in America today, and is to be regarded as such by any moral American.

Imagine that you are running a hospital. You have found a highly qualified black surgeon and you want to hire him. However, when you announce your decision to do so, an organization that contributes substantially to your hospital says that they will pull their funding if you should hire any black person.

Or, you and your young daughter have been taken hostage. The hostage taker points a gun at you and says, "Either you rape your young daughter while I watch, or I will pour lighter fluid on her and set her on fire while you watch."

There are two moral questions to be asked here.

One question is, "What should you do if somebody puts these types of demands on you?"

(Aside: Desirism concludes in these cases that the moral agent will have a strong aversion to both options. These strong aversions - combined with the fact that these are aversions an agent should have implies that the good person will be deeply and emotionally torn as to what to do. The specific action to take depends on the specific circumstances.)

The other question is: "What attitude should we as a society take towards people or organizations who place those types of demands on others?"

It's the second question that I want to focus on here, because it defines the attitude that a moral person should take with respect to the Catholic Church.

According to the Washington Post:

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said Wednesday that it will be unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn't change a proposed same-sex marriage law, a threat that could affect tens of thousands of people the church helps with adoption, homelessness and health care.

(See: Washington Post: Catholic Church gives D.C. ultimatum)

In other words, the Catholic Church has decided to play the role of the bigoted philanthropist.

On the issue of homosexuality, the Catholic Church has the moral facts wrong. They are as wrong about the immorality of homosexual acts just as they were about the Earth being the center of the universe.

They are also wrong for substantially the same reasons - because their Bible are the transcripts of stories made up by illiterate tribes who had a very primitive knowledge of both the physical and the moral universe.

The Catholic Church is certainly capable of ignoring the moral errors that made their way into its Bible. It no longer defends the view that God, through Ham, condemned all blacks to serve as the slaves of Europeans, it no longer demands the death of those who work on the Sabbath, it no longer condones the selling of one's daughters into slavery, and it no longer condemns the charging of interest on money.

It can easily add one more moral error to this list - unless it, like the KKK and Nazis - identify so strongly with a particular prejudice that becoming moral individuals would require giving up that identity.

I am not saying that the Catholic Church is like the KKK or Nazis. I am saying that they have a choice to make - to either be like the KKK or Nazis in their close identification with bigotry and prejudice, or cast this bigotry into the trash heap along with other moral mistakes found in scripture (or re-interpret scripture in such a way that it is more in tune with the moral facts).

People have no obligation to respect a religion that says that blacks must be enslaved or that children may be raped. It has no obligation to respect a religion that preaches bigotry against homosexuals and uses its power to promote unjust and immoral laws that do them harm.

"Charity Without Bigotry"

At the start, I said that how those who are subject to villainous blackmail should react depends on the specifics of the situation. I think that the specifics of this situation dictates a particular response.

The best response against the villainous blackmailer is to do what one can to take away the power that the villain is using as leverage. In this case, since the Catholic Church has decided hold the beneficiaries of its adoption, homeless, and health-care services hostage, those services should be transferred to organizations who can perform just as much virtuous charity, without poisoning it with vicious bigotry.

We should separate those who make contributions to charity for the sake of promoting bigotry from those who make contributions to charity for the sake of helping those who need by promoting organizations that can boast, "Charity Without Bigotry".

In fact, I would like to see that phrase used as a slogan.

This is the same attitude that a moral person would take toward the racist philanthropist and the kidnapper in the two examples that start this post. There, too, the right thing to do, if possible, is to deprive the villainous blackmailer of power so that his victims have the freedom to do what is right - or the freedom to not be forced to do evil themselves.


Luke said...

I hope you're still planning to finish your series on Smith & Parfit!

anton said...


Solution: Since the Catholic church threatens to withhold the services which contribute to its "tax status", withdraw its charitable status and insist that the church pay property tax on all of its holdings, business tax on all of its income, and that its priests, bishops, or cardinals are no longer permitted to deduct the cost of their housing including power, heat, etc. from their personal income tax. (How many of you know that the clergy presently deduct these amounts from their personal income tax EVEN if the housing is provided by the parish?) You have to play hardball with these bigots and hit them where it hurts . . . in their wallets!!

David said...

Concur. Take away the Catholic Church's 501(3)c tax status and reclassify as a political organization.

Didn't we settle the issue of Roman Catholic hegemony with the Reformation? Apparently some people have not gotten the word.

Eneasz said...

Anton - any action we can take to help this come to pass?