Separation of Church and State?
“I have as much authority as the Pope. I just don’t have as many people who believe it.”
Pope Francis is currently visiting Philadelphia on his US tour. Francis has been, so far, a very popular pope amongst Catholics and non-Catholics alike. He seems to be a refreshing change from the previous Pope. My Facebook feed has been blowing up with support for Francis and his ideas about povery, climate change, minimum wage, and more. Do I have some thoughts about it? You bet!
Before I begin, though, full disclosure: I am not and have never been a Catholic. I grew up attending Protestant churches (of various denominations). Today, I am not religious, but I am also not a religion-hater or an atheist. I don’t even hate Pope Francis. However, I think that one should examine his/her beliefs and any institutions to which he/she belongs or supports, especially religious ones. That said, I have some major problems with the Catholic Church and the papacy as general institutions and with Pope Francis specifically. This will not be a long post, but one in which I encourage you, dear reader, to research the topics that I present for yourself. Don’t take my word for anything. But don’t take Francis’ word, either.
The Papacy, in General
The Catholic Church is a very old institution, and as such has a long history of both positive and negative accomplishments. There’s a pretty good intelligence2 debate, in which the two sides argue whether or not the Church is a force for good or evil. It’s a lot to digest, so I suggest watching it on your own. I’ve embedded it here.
For non-Catholics like myself, sometimes it’s easier to see the bad more easily. In history, the Catholic Church was responsible for The Crusades, in which many innocent people were murdered/raped/made destitute. The Church created the Inquisition to torture/murder whomever they deemed a heretic, and the Church’s relationship to Nazi Germany is muddy, at best.
The Pope is a figurehead for this organization, sort of like a CEO. Ultimately, he is the man people look to for answers about the actions of the church. Some of these men have been downright evil bastards. Some have been generally decent men, but ultimately if your organization is rotten, the blame trickles up to the top.
Catholics perceive the Pope as the infallible link between God and the Church (with no evidence to suggest that this is true). Why look for guidance from the leader of an organization with questionable ethics (at best) or damaging policies (at worst)? The Pope is a political figure; nothing more. He has no special insights from God.
Pope Francis, Specifically
Pope Francis has caused quite a stir amongst both Catholics and non-Catholics. Some call him “the People’s Pope” while others have heavily criticized his positions on various and complex social challenges.
Embedded here is a video from Democracy Now! in which Francis’ 2014 letter on climate change is discussed at length:
I’m one of Francis’ critics, as you probably could have guessed. I’m not going to get into my specific criticisms here, because better minds than mine have already made eloquent, logical arguments against his positions on capitalism, climate change, poverty, and more. (I’ve embedded two of them, below.)
In broad strokes, I think it’s very dangerous and backwards to blend religion and politics. I’m terrified at the overwhelming support Francis is getting from Progressives. They claim to be in favor of the separation of church and state, yet they do not understand the danger inherent in the Pope’s handing down of his political positions to the Catholic faithful as God’s truth. Left-wing Progressives agree with his positions, and it seems the ends justify the means for them. Religion is not based on logic but emotion and tradition and should not be combined with politics under any circumstance, regardless of the religion, and regardless of whether you agree with the Pope or not.
Below, I have embedded two critiques of Pope Francis’ economic worldview. Both come from fairly well-known libertarian Catholics, so they cannot be slammed as “anti-Catholic” as I can (and probably will) be.
The first is from Judge Andrew Napolitano and Reason.TV:
The second is rather lengthy. It’s from libertarian author Tom Woods. (Skip to 3:17 to get to the discussion.):
Even if you don’t agree with the positions or politics of Woods or Napolitano, I argue that it is a very good thing that Catholics are questioning their leader. We all should, whether it’s a political, religious, or social leader. We are all subject to error and only with constant diligence can we discover truths. By deferring our beliefs and decisions to a leader, we do ourselves and society as a whole a great disservice and open ourselves up to be ruled by tyrants.
9/28/15 UPDATE: I’ve found two more criticism of Francis that I think are worth the read. The first is from The Bionic Mosquito, in which he dissects and refutes the Pope’s Congressional address. The second is from author and Lincoln critic Thomas DiLorenzo in which he gives his take on the historical context of a religious figure calling for central planning.
To end this post on a more light-hearted note, enjoy Monty Python’s classic Spanish Inquisition sketch.
A Disclaimer About My Politics
Thanks for reading this post, I hope I challenged you in some way. Agree with me? That’s cool. Disagree? Even better. I’m just a random guy on the internet, voicing his opinion (at the time of writing this blog post; opinions change as more facts and experience are gathered). But imagine if I had the political power and will to force you to agree with me! That would be terrible, and that’s the point of voluntarism and non-aggression. You should not be forced to agree with me. Please extend me the same courtesy.
“The word ‘politics’ is derived from the word ‘poly’ meaning ‘many’, and the word ‘ticks’ meaning ‘blood sucking parasites’.” -Larry Hardiman
Political Blog Posts
- The Democrats Don’t Deserve Your Vote
- The Republicans Don’t Deserve Your Vote
- The Libertarians Don’t Deserve Your Vote
- Democracy ≠ Freedom
- I Don’t “Feel the Bern.”
- Confessions of a Public Servant
- Leaders vs. Rulers
- Libertarianism is Better Than Progressivism
- Why I Do Not Vote (And Neither Should You)
- The Traffic Court Swindle
- Top Five Reasons I Don’t Argue Politics on Social Media
- Why Meaningful Debate is Impossible
- Dos and Do Nots for the Liberty Minded
- “There ought to be a law…”
- A Defense of Fugitive Slaves
- Conspiracy Theories are Dumb
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