Friday, January 26, 2007

What has the Catholic church done for us?

According to Christian Today (I'm not a regular reader, it has to be said), the Catholic church is once again lobbying for the reintroduction of a direct reference to the role of God in the formation of Europe as a continent. Considering the reliance of the Catholic church on a centuries-old document one would think that they would pay attention to history. I think a comparison between the European Convention of Human Rights (possibly pinnacle of European civilisation), and the Catholic church would be appropriate.

Articles 2 and 3 protect the right to life and prohibition of torture (Article 1 being to enforce respect for human rights in their jurisdiction). The Catholic church first instated execution by burning to be the punishment for heresy in the late 12th century, a particularly nasty method of execution now considered to be cruel and unusual punishment. Giordano Bruno, a Catholic and one of the first to argue for the existence of other planets, was executed by burning for heresy in 1600. Pope John Paul II issued a statement regretting the error of the Catholic church in the death of Bruno in one of its many saving-face exercises.

Article 4 prohibits slavery. There are numerous references to the keeping of slaves in the Bible, for example the ridiculous Curse of Ham, where Canaan was given as a slave to his uncles by his grandfather Noah (Genesis 9:20-27). This was for the crime of Canaan's father, Ham, telling his two brothers that Noah was naked after getting drunk! This was also the passage used by some to justify the transatlantic slave trade. The New Testament is equally happy to condone slavery, such as in 1 Peter 2:18 ("Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh."). Again, the Catholic church has done a complete about-turn and declared slavery contrary to God's will.

Articles 5, 6, 7 and 13 prohibit the maladministration of justice by protecting the right to liberty, security, a fair and speedy trial, and no punishment without law. The various Inquisitions set up by the Catholic church were in direct contradictions to these principles - attendance at a papal inquisition was supposedly voluntary but those who did not attend were immediately suspected of heresy, a lawyer for the defendant would lose his licence to practice if the defendant was convicted, and the defendant had no right to know the charges.

Article 8 requires respect for private life. Court rulings have taken this to mean homosexual activities conducted in private may not be criminalised. The history of Catholic attitudes towards homosexual activity is one of hate the sin, and the only change is a gradual progression of "hate the sinner" to "tolerate the sinner somewhat". The Bible's view of homosexuality is clear also - the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament (Genesis 19:1-28) or Romans 1:26-27 in the New Testament.

Articles 9, 10, and 11 are rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, expression, assembly, and association. In 1492, following the Alhambra decree all Jews were expelled from Spain if they did not convert to Catholicism. Jews were permitted back in Spain in the mid 19th century and the edict was only repealed in 1968. Jews who remained in Spain, defying the decree were considered Christians and had to declare their new faith before papal inquisitions. The despicable practice of "yellow badges" was also instituted in 1215 by the Fourth Council of the Lateran, requiring Jews and Muslims to wear special clothes for identification.

Article 12 protects the right to marry (for heterosexual couples). The right to marry non-Catholics is an rather hazy area, with certain Bible passages suggesting that marriage of unbelievers is prohibited (Deuteronomy 7:1-3). The Catholic church permits "mixed" marriage but usually requires that the children are brought up in the Catholic faith and requires the non-Catholic person allow the Catholic person to practice their religion without interference.

In every one of these thirteen articles protecting the rights of not just European citizens but in most circumstances foreigners as well, the Catholic church has a disgraceful history of sanctioning or actively taking part in crimes against humanity and has only in recent times apologised for its shameful behaviour (so much for deriving morals from the Bible). The only role the Catholic church has played in the formation of Europe and human rights is fighting against it at every stage. We should put that in the constitution instead.


peter said...

You want to try being a bastard: I can never enter into an association of The Lord, and am condemned to same with eunuchs, ammonites (what did those poor bloody fossils ever do the almighty?) and Moabites. The weekend football is going be so crap with that lot for opposition. Do they still do dissections in zoology? I did it in the 80s and we were always chopping things up.

Chris said...

I haven't done any dissections in my practicals, but one of my friends does Zoology at a different university and he has done dissections. I guess it just depends on your course. Maybe in third year....