Anja Merret
Anja Merret

Catholic Church goes retrograde

Religion is not something I usually write about, mainly because I don’t want to offend anybody. It is after all everybody’s choice as to how they nurture their soul. But the Catholic Church’s latest political manoeuvres have gotten to me.

Religion is one of those things many people can’t decide, or at least I can’t, if it’s a private or public thing. I grew up in apartheid South Africa. The churches were condemned for not doing more to stop the crimes against humanity.

The ministers who had the courage and conviction to speak up were thrown out of church and the society they lived in. Beyers Naude springs to mind as a great example.

Desmond Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace prize. Many people spoke against him and said the church should not interfere in politics.

Where should we draw the line? It’s complicated. After all religion can dictate how you live, look at Muslims and Jews for instance. Their religious beliefs determine many of their daily activities. How is it possible that their religion won’t encroach on their political life.

But it’s not the Muslims and Jews that have made me think about this topic again. It’s the latest little dramas playing out in the Vatican. I’m almost relieved that the Catholic Church has lost some of its power because what the Pope is doing could signal a move onto dangerous ground.

There have been some vague rumblings already since Pope Benedict took over that gave the indication he is fairly conservative in his interpretation of the Bible and the Catholic faith. There is a rumour that Latin could be re-introduced into the services again for instance.

But that is of course nothing to worry people about. In fact the Latin services could be quite beautiful. It’s the move last month to rehabilitate some bishops who had been banished previously that is causing widespread apprehension.

The four bishops have a reputation for being ultra conservative. For instance Bishop Richard Williamson is known to be a part Holocaust denier. Besides this he and the other three bishops were a breakaway group ordained without Vatican permission by the renegade French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre who rejected the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

What is concerning Jews for instance is the holocaust opinions voiced by Williamson. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken this so seriously that she has voiced a strong concern today stating she sincerely hopes the Catholic Church will not decide to endorse this belief.

It’s when the leaders of a particular religion start to support beliefs outside politics and in this case humanitarian scope that one becomes massively concerned for the safety of the world.

It’s bad enough there are extremists from various religious persuasions who interpret their belief systems in such a way as to allow them to wage personal wars, sometimes violently against anybody opposing their beliefs.

The problem becomes huge when an entire religious institution supports some belief system that could lead to a situation where a crime against people could be denied, ignored or even condoned.

By virtue of this belief system it could open the doors to Christian extremists who now feel supported by the church to instigate all sorts of horrific deeds against mankind. Nothing like a touch of religious zeal to get the murdering juices flowing.