Rather Less Than 50 Reasons to Boycott the Catholic Church …

Adam Lee has written a post on Alternet giving, he claims, 50 reasons for Catholics to stop supporting the Catholic Church. Over at Big Think, in the promotional post for the article, Lee says:

If this gets a good reception, I’ll write a sequel with fifty more!

Unfortunately, on reading it, it’s clear that Lee isn’t giving fifty actual reasons, but far less than that. His reasons boil down to a small number of actual reasons, with him just adding on more and more and more examples of the same objection. So let me summarize them here:

1) The Catholic Church has handled the pedophilia scandal badly (1 – 5, 19, 30 – 39, 48)

2) Lee disagrees with their positions and values (6 – 18, 20, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 44 – 47, 50)

3) Lee thinks they interfere too much in government and society based on those values that he thinks wrong (8, 9, 14 – 16, 18, 21, 24, 25, 26, 41)

4) Simple gripes (23, 40, 42, 43, 49)

So, in my estimation, roughly four reasons. Maybe we can go as high as nine if we consider the simple gripes as being independent reasons. That’s far, far short of 50, and he claims to have 50 more … which means more of the same, likely, or else he would have just listed them here.

And that’s not all. If you go through them, many of the reasons end up being nothing more than listing different aspects of the same incident, and so we don’t even have 50 different incidents here. This is not, therefore, an argument, but simply rhetoric, an attempt to make it look like he has 50 reasons and an excuse to simply list them all out and hope that people will be horrified by the number of them that they will agree with him. However, knowing that he really is after that sort of reaction, let’s look at his reasons objectively here:

1) Most Catholics, I think, think that the Church handled the pedophilia scandals badly. It is debatable whether it handled it worse than secular authorities did, and it is debatable whether this indicates a deep corruption in the Catholic Church. However, at the end of the day, I do think that most Catholics want it fixed, but at least I personally think that posts like these blaming these things on something inherent in the Catholic Church don’t help at all. All this does is make Catholics want to defend the Church and its values as a whole, which takes away from Catholics holding the Church’s feet to the fire and demanding change. Catholics can indeed force change if they really want to, and likely want to. Outsiders saying that this is just what it means to be Catholic or that this is inherent to that institution are both likely wrong and force those Catholics who want to change the Church into defending at least the parts of it that they think useful and important like …

2) The values. Lee is basing his assessment of these values on a very specific moral system, one that is roughly Utilitarian. As I am enamored of Kant and the Stoics, who both despise any sort of Utilitarian reasoning, I don’t see the values the same way he does. And also note that many of the assessments are misleading, and don’t take into account the actual arguments … are even out of date (Pope Benedict, for example, has relaxed the Church’s stance on condoms with respect to AIDS. This is reason 9, and the article he cites was from 2009 … and only 2 years ago the restriction was lifted).

Ultimately, the problem with 2 is that you can’t settle a clash of values by pointing them out and saying “See how bad they are?”, because they’re likely to be bad from your perspective and not from the perspective of those you’re criticizing … those who you want to convince of the rightness of your values and the wrongness of yours. If Lee, for example, fired back at me on any moral issue with “That causes harm!” or “It should be allowed because it doesn’t cause harm!” my immediate reply would be “I don’t consider the level of harm to determine whether or not something is immoral!” … and then he can either take Harris’ tack and say there’s nothing more to talk about (but I’m still objectively wrong somehow) or, alternatively, get into debating the low-level notion about what it means for something to be immoral.

3) Lee himself is not exactly shy about trying to get his values expressed in law. For example, he is a major proponent of legalizing same-sex marriage. Now, to me, a secular society either must allow everyone to advocate for their values no matter what their source or it must not allow anyone to advocate for their values. So, if Lee can push for his progressive, liberal, humanist values and I can push for my Stoic/Kantian values, then the religious must be able to advocate for their religiously based values. And so if he doesn’t like them trying to convince governments and the like to implement their values, then he’s free to stop trying to convince governments and the like to implement his values. But a secular and democratic state should not prejudge what values are acceptable and which ones aren’t … and that’s what he’s doing here.

4) Many of these are debatable … and they’re all mostly rhetoric.

The big problem with this article is that it’s rhetoric masquerading as argument. It’s a list of the things that he doesn’t like, some of which have merit and some of which don’t. But all he does is list the things he doesn’t like, and he leaves no room for actual interaction or argument over whether they really are that bad or, more importantly, if boycotting the Church is the right way to deal with the claims that have merit. And thus, it can add nothing to the debate, and Catholics can and should happily ignore it — and him — and go on deciding what the Church means to them, and if they share its values, and how to evolve it into an institution that better reflects the shared core values. And I submit that if more Catholics learned to ignore non-Catholics who say things like this, then things would be improved a lot faster than they are currently.

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2 Responses to “Rather Less Than 50 Reasons to Boycott the Catholic Church …”

  1. Héctor Muñoz Says:

    My argument is that the failure of Catholics to succesfully adhere to Catholic doctrine either on personal or institutional level is not a reason to stop being Catholic since Catholics are expected to fail.

    If you stop believing in Catholic doctrine then you have a sound reason to leave Catholic Church.

  2. Coda for Catholics … « The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] has put up another few examples of why he thinks Catholics should quit the Catholic Church. Since I commented on the first set, I consider it only fair to comment on this […]

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