When religion and morality collide

The hardball lobbying job underway by the Catholic Church to not extend the statute of limitations for bringing child sex abuse lawsuits in Maryland and other places has wheeled the Trackball around to the Gordian Knot that is religion and morality.

The Catholic Bishops are going all out to stop the flood of lawsuits by children molested by church officials over the last bunch of decades. Their record on this is as fragrant as that of Halliburton facing an overcharging scandal.

Except. This. Is. About. Protecting. Child. Sex. Offenders.

Who happen to wear clerical collars. And the organization that enabled their reign of terror.

Is there a shred of morality anywhere in their behavior on this issue? Countersuing the victims, accusing the parents of incompetence, questioning the legality of criminal prosecution, covering up the scandal, and pooh-poohing parents' concerns over their children's safety in the rectory.

Note the effect that the public morality has already had on the church. It is not insignificant that public outcry has wrenched the church to the position of: Yeah, yeah, we're sorry that it happened, blah blah blah, but we shouldn't have to lose money over the whole thing! This is a clear case of religion and morality in conflict.

Shouldn't morality stem from religious teachings, you say? Oh, that spin is far off from the truth. Religion, like patriotism, has been misused in the past and present to house blatantly immoral acts. The gentle and kind statements of various religious founders generally don't match the actions. Public morality often runs way ahead of the religious orthodoxy. Look at civil rights, where the majority of religious leaders in America were either on the sidelines or quoting the Bible about the virtues of segregation. So too with the abolition of slavery, the rise of democracy, women's equality, birth control, the spread of literacy and acceptance of homosexuals as equal citizens (still waiting on that one, by the way). A couple of right thinking and vocal ministers in a movement doesn't offset the silent majority.

Lest you think that I'm singling out the Catholic Church, every religion has these kind of moments. Hardly any are as hierarchical as the CC, so it's easier to use them as an example. However, the lack of outrage over Shiite/Sunni slaughter in Iraq is a good one for Islam, Israeli treatment of Palestinians, Hindu violence in India, white protestants on civil rights in the South, and Buddhism-fueled torture and trampling of human rights in Japan's history. And they all have lost the moral path when it comes to proper treatment of women, although the sins here are of varying degree.

Oh, wait, you guys, the secular humanists, the religious humanists, freethinkers, atheists and agnostics who are all smiling at one another, you have transgressions that need to be reversed too. You are the ones charged with protecting morality when the organized religions don't and you have been derelict in your duty. The biggest failure has been not being vocal enough about a morality that transcends any religious dogma. The kind which people of all faiths know and understand - that a person should not be harmed or humiliated, that he or she has a set of rights that dictate that he or she should be treated well and protected when defenseless.

Without that kind of defense, the others will try to tie morality completely to their gods, making it null and void when their day to day prophets find it advantageous to disregard it. Those day to day prophets are human too, and prone to err when their self interest collides with their advanced ethical training. When such a thing happens, people of all faiths should strike back and wrench the errant religion back on to the moral course, like has been done through the ages.

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