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Catholicism: the good and the bad

Charlie Remy / Columnist

Since Pope John Paul II has recently died, I think it is pertinent to reflect upon the Catholic church and its positives and negatives. I went to a Catholic high school (run by the Jesuit order of priests) and must say that looking back on the experience, I received a highly decent education. The education was based upon the maxim of doing one's best and being a "person for others." These are values that stick with me while at Elon. When I look at the Catholic church, I take the view that one should not throw the baby out with the bath water. In other words, the Catholic church is a force for so much good that one should not completely reject it because of its flaws.

I don't like the way the church treats women -- as second class citizens. It is very much a reflection of our patriarchal society. Women should no doubt be able to become priests. Priests should also be allowed to marry. The Catholic church also must be more tolerant of homosexuals as they are not inherently sinful. They deserve to be treated as nothing short of equals.

While I was at home during spring break, I attended a Jewish Seder celebration at my cousins' Catholic church. Since Vatican II in 1965, the church has become much more ecumenical and is accepting of other faiths. It was interesting to watch the parishioners interact with the priest. It never occurred to me how much power and influence priests have traditionally had and still have over many parishioners. Many of the Catholics at this event acted as if what the priest said was the absolute truth and that they should not question it at all. It got me thinking that this may have been one of the factors that led to the large amounts of sex abuse involving priests. Parishioners have been too blindly trusting of their priests and never asked questions. It is something to ponder in any faith: the importance of questioning authority.

Now onto the more positive aspects of the church. The church is very much interested in social justice. It believes that everyone on earth is equal of dignity no matter what their situation may be and that they deserve respect. This belief was evident through the advent of Liberation Theology, which was popular throughout Latin America in the 1970s/1980s, while many of the countries there were embroiled in violent civil wars. Another example of this hunger for social justice is the Catholic Worker Movement started by Dorothy Day in 1933. It consists of "houses of hospitality" in poor sections of the country which provide the marginalized with food, clothing and shelter. The Catholic church is also rightly against the death penalty, where American bishops recently have committed to fight against the barbaric practice.

It's important to know that the Catholic church is so big and diverse that it encompasses all ideologies. These ideologies go from the very conservative Opus Dei group to the far left Catholic Worker movement/liberation theology. Hopefully the Church will begin to make the necessary reforms to get it more up to date with the 21st century.

One must take the good with the bad and not completely discount the Catholic faith because of its flaws.

Contact Charlie Remy at or 278-7247.