Saturday, 11 April 2009

Reflections about the Roman Catholic Church

Another Easter Sunday is just round the corner. Although I do not consider myself as a Roman Catholic, I am still able to identify a number of very positive things related to this belief system.

The commitment to help the poor has, I believe, rarely been echoed by any other religious or secular organisation. Countless representatives of the Roman Catholic Church have ventured to places characterised by so much misery that I cannot help feeling the greatest admiration for such people. It must be fiendishly difficult for a person who grew up in a relatively comfortable Western country to drop everything in order to go to some corner of the world where whole villages might lack essential supplies.

Helping the sick has also been a wonderful achievement of the Roman Catholic Church. Many hospitals and clinics have been set up by the Church in order to provide much-needed medical assistance to hundreds of thousands of people.

Apart from the tangible achievements of the Roman Catholic Church, I believe that many lives have been changed for the better through an exposure to a certain view of Jesus. Similar to Socrates, Jesus never wrote any books and whatever we know about him came from other people. Having said this, many would agree that Jesus represents the type of person who believes that there can never be any true and lasting happiness in the universe as long as there is even one human being who is in some sort of pain. Furthermore, the message that is often attributed to Jesus is one of unconditional love; no matter how much other people might hate you or wish you harm, it is essential that such hatred is never returned with an equal or greater amount of negative energy. When we are told that Jesus asked God to forgive those who were killing him, I am stunned by his apparent determination to distinguish the sinner from the sin; the latter should be despised, but a hand should always be extended to the former in order to help them become better individuals. According to the Scriptures, Jesus never sentenced any specific person to eternal suffering.

The above factors had helped to guide me during my days as a Roman Catholic believer. Yet, since the age of 16, it has been virtually impossible for me to reconcile the nice things mentioned above with the many rules and beliefs that were written by human beings during the centuries following Jesus's death and which became part of the Roman Catholic faith. In my view, as long as the Roman Catholic Church continues to uphold the following beliefs, it will continue losing members and it will also continue looking more distant from the Jesus that comes across to the average reader of the Bible:

a.) The ban on female priests;
b.) The ban on contraceptives;
c.) The condemnation of sex before marriage;
d.) The fact that all priests must be celibate;
e.) The belief that homosexuality does not form a part of God's Plan;
f.) The absolute rejection of divorce.

I think that the Church will eventually change its position on many of the points listed above, but it will take a very brave Pope to initiate such changes. When will these changes occur? Sadly, there is no easy answer to this question. Some of the changes could start within the next decade, but it is extremely likely that most of the changes would require another 50 years before the world starts witnessing them.


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