On Monday I was furnished with yet another reminder of why — at the age of fifteen — I quit the Catholic Church. It would be a few more years before I dispensed with the idea of god altogether, but it suffices to say that even as a high school sophomore, I realized that many of the Church’s teachings are anathema to equal rights, human freedom, and even common decency.
In remarks delivered in Baltimore to a gathering of American bishops, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston praised the narrow defeat a ballot measure in Massachusetts that would have made physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients in the state a legal reality. O’Malley denounced the proposal as a “terrible assault on human life.”
The Catholic Church has, from time immemorial, insisted that individuals do not have the right to do as they please with their own bodies, lest they live in sin in the eyes of the celestial busybody. Among the acts deemed damnation-worthy in Catholicism are: abortion, engaging in sexual acts with a person of the same sex, having sex outside of marriage, divorce, practicing birth control of any kind, and of course, ending one’s own life under any circumstances. And who promulgates these divinely-ordained proscriptions to the denizens of earth? Why, middle aged and virgin men who are without wives, without children, and who are completely celibate. Taking sexual and matrimonial advice from Catholic clergymen makes as much sense as asking a Mormon if he knows how to make a good martini.
In Sunday school, I was one of the few students who would actually listen as teachers and priests prattled on about the moral necessity of having sex only while married, and without birth control. Abortion was called “the new Holocaust,” while gays were denounced for their wicked ways. When the time came for me to experience the sacrament of Confirmation, whereby one becomes an adult member of the Church, I was told that my “sponsor” had to be an undivorced Catholic. However, before that inglorious moment could arrive, I decided it was better to be a heathen child than a Catholic adult.
The Church's fastidious obsession with the human body betrays a disturbing institutionalized sexual neuroticism, and it should hardly come as a surprise that the Church became embroiled in a widespread child molestation scandal a decade ago. Given the organization's prohibitions on virtually all things sexual, it's entirely reasonable to expect that individuals who are predisposed to, and cognizant of, their deviant inclinations would attempt to escape into the cloth in an attempt to suppress them.
Thankfully, as a moral mentor, the Church and the archaic sexual preachments of its pontiff are becoming more irrelevant by the day. And while some are quick to heap praise on the Vatican at even the slightest indication that it may be changing its regressive positions, some of us are left to wonder what took them so long. Regarding human sexuality, the Church is not a moral beacon, but a hindrance to freedom and progress.