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Our children will pay for our pollution of the spiritual water table.
(Vasily Perov. Troika; Apprentice Workmen Carrying Water. Source)
If your neighbor decided to dig a deep hole in his cottage's backyard in order to bury toxic waste (like barrels filled with mercury, or old rusty transformers filled with polychlorinated biphenyls, etc.), would you let him do it? If the Environmental Department came for a visit, and your neighbor tried to justify himself by saying: "Well, it's my private property, I have a right to do whatever I want on it?", do you think they would accept his argument?
These days, we know far more about Ecology than fifty or a hundred years ago. We know the water table can be contaminated, even from very far away, and we know that once it's contaminated, the drinking water supply of a whole region is in jeopardy. And those are the good news! Indeed, if the contamination isn't detected quickly enough, many men (including young children) could risk their health, even their lives.
Fortunately, we're fairly well informed about ordinary water tables. But what about the "spiritual water table" in Quebec? Many persons think that Catholic Priests can "bury spiritual waste on their private property", without this harming everybody in Quebec! Many persons think that, since they are Atheists, or at least non-Catholic, then what is going on in the Catholic Church's backyard supposedly shouldn't concern them!
This appears false to me. A human society has much in common with a water table. What occurs, apparently in private at one end of society often ends up having repercussions in the most remote extremities. Indeed, habits (good or bad, virtuous or vicious) that are taught to some members of a society end up "contaminating", or influencing all other members of that society.
Let's take an example: a mother, in the privacy of her home, teaches her child not to throw garbage on the floor. The child grows up, and many years later picks up an empty bottle littering the sidewalk. A passer-by sees him, and thinks to himself: "That's a good deed. It's true we mustn't litter", and therefore makes the effort of walking three more steps to throw his chocolate bar wrapper in a trashcan, instead of on the sidewalk. And so on.
Unfortunately, it's the same for bad examples. Perverts who go to topless bars claim it's "their private life", that they are "among consenting adults", and of course that "none of this is illegal", etc. But won't the habit they acquire and reinforce, the bad habit of treating women like objects, eventually have a negative influence on the rest of society?
Because we live in a society, what some members do in the privacy of their churches ends up having an influence on all of society.
It seems tedious but quite possible to prove a strict cause to effect relation between the bad habits of some Catholic leaders, and some harmful behaviors in the rest of our society. We would need long and patient research efforts but, in the meantime, we can ask ourselves questions about possible correlations:
3.1) Anti-ecological missalettes ("Prions en Église"). Catholic Priests are supposed to teach the faithful that the Bible contains the Word of God. Great respect is given to Sacred Scripture in the official Liturgy, like carrying the Bible in a procession, or kissing the Gospels before reading them, etc. Except these days in Quebec the faithful follow the Mass in little brochures (called "Prions en Église") that are thrown away after each Sunday! Is this a good example, to encourage people to respect the environment? If we trample the dignity of the Word of God, why then be surprised of what little respect we give to Mother Nature? And let's not forget that for centuries, the faithful had missals, a church book they could keep their entire lives. No waste! And should I mention that the old missals had no advertisements? Imagine, ads in the Word of God! And then we are scandalized when some soft drink manufacturers place ads in the cafeterias of elementary schools...
3.2) The distribution of Sacraments, and school diplomas. Could there be a relationship between Priests who hand out Sacraments any which way, and schools who hand out diplomas, even to students who should fail? I have no proofs, but I have the impression that many Priests have no "Quality Control" (see among others The Sacrament of "Disevangelization"). Moreover, having myself graded student essays, I observed that many graduates didn't necessarily have the skills certified by their diploma. In both cases, it seems that the persons responsible for laying down the law simply chose the easy way out, in order to be left in "peace".
3.3) Priests who don't keep their promises, in order to cash their paycheck . Whatever the society, whatever the period in History, one of the most important building-blocks of social health is the citizen's capacity to keep their word. Respecting one's commitment has an influence on all of society, whether it's respecting one's word for buying and selling, or respecting the Code of Ethics for each profession, or respecting the promise of marriage, etc. But each Catholic Priest, freely, consciously, in writing and publicly , has made the promise of respecting all the teachings of the Catholic Church! What should we then think about the Priests who pretend to be Catholics in order to cash their paycheck, and who the rest of the time are outright Protestants? Should I mention, in parallel, the current Sponsorship scandal in Ottawa? (For those not living in Canada in 2005, the "AdScam" is basically several dozens of millions of dollars earmarked for the promotion of Canadian unity, which "mysteriously" ended up in the pockets of friends of the ruling Liberal Party.) I don't see how giving the example of a person who prefers money to their word could be beneficial to our society.
3.4) The Promotion Of The Culture Of Death. Even though all of the official teachings of the Catholic Church promote the Culture of Life, a significant proportion of the "Catholic" clergy in the Province of Quebec actually promotes the exact opposite culture, with abortion, contraception, divorce, sodomy, etc.
Chemical pollutants can be more or less concentrated, and hence more or less dangerous. In a similar way, spiritual pollution can be more or less dangerous, depending on many factors:
4.1) The "moral height" of the institution. If tomorrow morning you read in the newspaper that some member of a motorcycle gang got drunk and beat his wife, you won't be very surprised. In a way, that spiritual pollution won't have as much effect as if it had been a judge, or a politician, etc. What is the institution with the most "moral height"? Well, consider that Catholic Priests and Bishops are "holiness professionals". You don't pay them to fix your car, or to clean your teeth, or to teach arithmetic to your youngest daughter. You pay them to be holy, to talk about holiness, and to spread holiness around as much as possible.
4.2) The "social capillarity" of the institution. Let's imagine a source of "spiritual pollution": a club for nudists who like to throw their empty beer bottles on the beach and kill endangered species with high-powered shotguns. Let's suppose there's only one chapter for this club, way up north in British Columbia, along a short deserted stretch of the Pacific Coast. Yes, this club with cause some spiritual pollution (as well as some physical pollution!), but probably not as much as if it had the same "social capillarity" as the Catholic Church. The Church has dioceses everywhere in Canada, Parishes in the smallest towns, Priests and Bishops everywhere, and its school system is often quite elaborate (whether for young children or other age groups). Now look outside Canada: which church is spread all over the Planet as much as the Catholic Church? Which church has a kind of "Global Government" as extensive as the Catholic Church?
4.3) The "systematicity" of the corruption. All institutions have "bad apples". Men are prone to sin, and if you gather enough people into a group, eventually one member is going to do something objectionable. But this is not the same as an institution which begins to systematically manufacture vicious persons.
If my neighbor wanted to bury toxic waste in his backyard, I'd object. In the same way, even if I were a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or a Jew, I'd still object to the corruption inside the Catholic Church. The social mechanisms which unite all citizens don't discriminate according to religion. Neither should we.
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