Monday, April 18, 2016

A Meddlesome Priest

I recently ran across a priest, one Robert Sirico. I watched him instruct a group of Senators, Republicans admiring and Democrats disgusted, with regard to what the Pope was allowed to speak about in a moral context. Catholic brothers and sisters enlighten me; am I wrong in believing this guy was overstepping his bounds?

At any rate, in a smug and condescending tone Sirico let Senator Barbara Boxer know that when Francis pontificates against birth control and abortion in order to control the lives and bodies of women, he is within the righteous scope of the Holy See. When, however, he speaks out against greed and the excesses of the free market, the Pope is somehow in desperate dereliction of his duty. Call me a naive Pagan, but if I didn't know better I could swear this bird was a lobbyist for any corporate entity in America – wearing his collar backward to give a sense of dignity and reverence to a position that deserves neither.

The priest was making a case for the continued use of fossil fuels before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, in a hearing concerned with the science of climate change. As leader of the conservative Action Institute, claiming to study religion and liberty, and the author of a book entitled "Defending the Free Market", Sirico has no background in science. His only degree as near as I can tell is a Masters in Divinity. Apparently, early on in his ministerial career he became concerned that the Catholic clergy were not treating business people fairly. I am not sure what that means when speaking as the earthly representative of an impoverished Jewish carpenter who founded his religion on the concepts of piece, humility and a decided lack of interest in if not contempt for commercialism/materialism. Again, Catholic brothers and sisters, enlighten me.

Suffice it to say, that people like Sirico are playing an increasingly influential part in our socioeconomic and political lives. The religion-rabid Republicans will accept any principle that reinforces their self interest and invokes the name of Jesus Christ; a man of whom they are intent upon making a mockery. Indeed, this spurious need to pander to the churches and their doctrines seems to be a litmus test in most political campaigns in this secular state.

The election season of 2016 has provoked, and rightly, a great deal of talk about what is at stake; the Supreme Court, the rights of women, social justice for people of color, income inequality, climate change, foreign policy that seems to spin around war like plaster horses on a merry-go-round. Yet, one thing that is seldom discussed, and needs to be, is the constant bleating and screeching about religious freedom. The people making this issue a loud and pronounced part of their platform are talking about freedom for one religion only, theirs. In this respect I give you Ted Cruz who is the emperor of the two-for-a-nickel-bible-toting-Elmer Gantries. Make no mistake Cruz, Sirico and their like are not promoting religious freedom; they are the heralds of religious tyranny. Many other forms of tyranny have been built on this foundation: for instance, monarchies and the Divine Right of Kings with the accompanying “holy” privilege of lay and religious aristocracies; religion's complicity in the abuses of the Feudal state, the atrocity of slavery, the genocide of our Native Americans and of economic tyrannies worldwide throughout history.

As serious and responsible people in a world that appears to be losing its bloody mind, I submit that we need to take a firm stand on two issues. First, there is no reason for the American people to continue to take moral instruction from politicians. Their profession while not the oldest is certainly one of the dirtiest - with a few exceptions. Second, freedom of religion is freedom for all religions or it is meaningless. Codifying the tenets of one faith into law or overemphasizing the credibility of one faith in particular is tantamount to autocracy through theology. In the case of this oil soaked, bible thumping cheerleader, Sirico, it may be contraindicated to the survival of our species and our planet.

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