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So let me get this straight. Space aliens are now an acceptable part of God’s creation, but homosexuals are not? What if the space aliens are gay?! And who’s better priest material – straight male aliens or earthly women?

It’s only June, and already the Vatican has had a busy year. On March 10, it doubled the number of deadly sins. To the list of seven – lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride – are now added pollution, genetic engineering, obscene riches, drug dealing, abortion, pedophilia, and social injustice.

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On May 13, the Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, said that rejecting the possibility of life on other planets would essentially put limits on God’s creativity. And on May 30, the Vatican drew a line in the sand regarding gender and the Catholic priesthood. Apparently a woman can be a president or a prime minister, but not a priest or pope. Any woman attempting to do so will be excommunicated.

Is it just me, or is the agenda of His new Holiness characterized by some serious holey-ness?

Making pollution a deadly sin is a fine idea, but environmentalists have long argued that deforestation, air pollution, global warming, and tainted water supplies are all symptoms of overpopulation. Last time I checked, the Catholic Church frowned on birth control and, as previously noted, declared abortion a deadly sin. Obviously, then, the Church’s stance on birth control contributes to pollution. But it also fosters social injustice. As natural resources get scarcer, politically underrepresented folks (i.e., indigenous groups) are marginalized and disenfranchised. No one knows this better than the Vatican, which used such tactics again and again in the conquest of Central and South America.

Declaring obscene wealth a deadly sin is curious because “greed” already capably designates this vein of immorality. But the Vatican’s intent wasn’t to create a double-whammy on rich folks. It obviously wanted to wink at capitalism by creating precedents of “good” greed and “bad” greed. Making “greed in moderation” permissible allows the church to finally expand that problematic needle eye (Matthew 19:12) enough for camels and wealthy folks to squeeze through en route to heaven. This watering down of the Word is obviously great news for the “haves” and the “have-mores,” but it highlights one of the glaring paradoxes of Catholicism. How can the Supreme Pontiff preach against obscene wealth when the church itself is obscenely wealthy?

Research suggests that the Vatican is one of the largest landowners in the world, with visible title to more than $300 billion in property (churches, schools, hospitals, etc.) and around $3 trillion in investments, much of it concealed by hundreds of complex networks controlling thousands of trusts and front companies. You’d have better luck finding the Ark of the Covenant than getting to see the Church’s financial records, so how does the Vatican have any business listing obscene wealth as a deadly transgression?

Making pedophilia a deadly sin is a good idea, but isn’t the Church’s condemnation of pedophilia akin to the Bush administration’s renunciation of torture? Does anyone really believe either will ever completely extricate itself from past modus operandi?
As far as God’s creativity goes, if ET isn’t an unnatural creation that threatens the moral and philosophical pillars of the church, then neither is Ellen DeGeneres, Boy George, or Richard Simmons. The most awe-inspiring expanse in the Vatican is the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel where a homosexual named Michelangelo created his greatest masterpiece. How could centuries of priests and popes worship and pray in this transcendent space and still reserve the divine spark of God for heterosexuals, relegating homosexuals to subhumanity and social exile?

And how is it that the Vatican sees fit to threaten female candidates to the priesthood with excommunication when the Church for decades protected pedophiles within its ranks? Very few (if any) of them were ever excommunicated for their sins – sins which the church now deems deadly. Why are women considered such a threat? Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II after her death. How is it that women can be candidates for sainthood but not priesthood?

As long as the leadership of the Catholic Church is rabidly patriarchal, the clergy small-mindedly heterosexual (at least in public), and the Vatican’s commitment to its own tenets pitifully lax, Catholics should not pass judgment. They should fear it.

E.R. Bills is a Fort Worth-area freelance writer.

 

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