Mormonism and Catholicism: Who Can Mock This Church?

HawkgrrrlMormon 17 Comments

There was a great article in the New York Times this week:  Who Can Mock This Church?  While it was about Catholicism reeling in the wake of the pedophilia scandal, it raised a few points relevant to critics of any church.

From the Op-Ed (you can mentally replace some of the Catholic references with “Mormon” if that helps):

there seem to be two Catholic Churches, the old boys’ club of the Vatican and the grass-roots network of humble priests, nuns and laity in places like Sudan. The Vatican certainly supports many charitable efforts, and some bishops and cardinals are exemplary, but overwhelmingly it’s at the grass roots that I find the great soul of the Catholic Church

It’s because of brave souls like these that I honor the Catholic Church. I understand why many Americans disdain a church whose leaders are linked to cover-ups and antediluvian stances on women, gays and condoms — but the Catholic Church is far larger than the Vatican.

And unless we’re willing to endure beatings alongside Father Michael, unless we’re willing to stand up to warlords with Sister Cathy, we have no right to disparage them or their true church.

Personally, I find the highs are often higher in Catholicism because of the nature of “vocation”; nuns and priests literally give their whole life to God in a way that Mormons, who consider family life central to God’s plan, simply don’t.  But the lows are also lower, due to a few things Catholicism doesn’t share with Mormonism:  an almost two-thousand year history (and its accompanying baggage), the unhealthy sexual repression of a celibate clergy, an extremely strong anti-birth control stance (that many of its adherents ignore), and the belief in Papal infallibility (a notion that some Mormons like to flirt with).

So, what do you think?  Is the church its organization and leadership or is it the people, its adherents?  Do people get lost in the criticism of the organization and forget the good done by individuals?  Discuss.

Comments 17

  1. I don’t know that I can not help but be bias, especially growing up catholic. but the thing that is drawing me back to the catholic church is the fact my salvation is linked to me only. Let me elaborate. I’m tired of this church telling me that as a single woman I can’t get to celestial kingsdom if, I’m not married. Pure Horse Puckey.

    And lets’ not kid ourselves, the Mormon church has its’ own fair share dark history that it tends to rewrite in a more favorable light to make it more palatable.(i.e)polygamy, that beats any unhealthy sexual repression that the Catholics have endure. And let me be clear about something I don’t believe its’ the men in the Mormon church who are repressed. Its’ the woman who have to put up with so called leadership

  2. Dblock, not to be rude, but that’s not EXACTLY doctrinal. Unmarried men and women (not just women) can achieve Celestial glory, but not to the extent married couples can. It’s all about families. This is coming from a single guy.

    1. @Single guy

      That’s exactly my point. My self worth, nor should any one else’ self worth should be tied to the fact that we are not just as important being single as we would being married. My glory should be determined by what I do on earth, not weather or not I’m a single person, who for whatever reason never had an opportunity to married.
      These kinds of attitudes are not present in Catholicism

  3. A lot of the good Catholic criticism comes from the loyal in-house parishioners. I’m hopeful for them.

    And amazing Catholic service abroad is very much facilitated by the organization. You don’t get Mother Teresa without Catholicism, or Paul Farmer, or Oscar Romero.

    And hey, nice magazine format, but I miss the blue/red/green beehive-/gold moroni logo/art. Work that back in, please!

  4. Two thoughts. Rosalynde Welch recently posted at T&S a summary of a gay catholic priest’s take on the tensions between the church and the people. It was an insightful post and certainly shows that they have an environmen of cultural criticism that might be lacking in our faith.

    Second. This split between leaders and members seems like a false dichotomy. There is a reciprocity here that is close to an aporia. I think the real distinction is where we choose to situate our focus. Yet, even lay-members do stupid and hurtful things but we seem to expect less from them and so it is not as widely discussed. If we started to see our leaders more as lay-members then we might take back some of the power we give them to hurt and betray us. Yet, doing so also menas taking mor responsibility for our own faith and spirituality.

  5. Any church having a human membership should not be surprised by its countless failings. The miracle is when its saints rise above sin. Thank goodness, the Catholic Church has more than its fair share of such saints.

  6. I like Aaron’s take. Our local leaders are lay members who have been elevated to a leadership position for a time. They are not, or at least should not be reverenced in the same way as a Catholic Priest is.

    While there is no excuse for abuse by anyone, anytime, for any reason, the so-called hurt and betrayal Aaron refers to, is completely self-inflicted. One chooses to feel that way.

    Not excusing the cause of it, but one does not have to feel that way. Plenty of good Catholic members are not in agreement with Church policy and doctrine, just like some of us.

  7. @Hawkgrrrl
    It’s an interesting dynamic to be sure. I think in Mormonism we give too much allegiance to the leaders and organization, often at the expense of the Gospel. Perhaps this is due to the emphasis we place on correct authority. Anytime you place emphasis on authority of any kind, where an individual, or a few key individuals hold a “higher” authority than the others, you have a recipe for a heirarchy, and resulting allegiance thereto. As a result, our leaders STRONGLY influence the culture whether they wish it that way or not. This is obviously reflected in the people. As a result, I do think the LDS church is primarily the organization, its buildings, leaders, culture, and political presence (particularly in Utah).

    For contrast, I think the CoC church is more the “members.” The members there feel at liberty to challenge new information, new directions, and new policies/doctrines etc. Although I’m not in that church, it seems to me that they would have a more “grass roots” approach than we do. Firetag, please correct me on this.

  8. So much of Catholicism is experienced in you local parish and at home with your family. We are in a way removed from upper echelon Church leadership. I look at my parish family as a separate entity from The Vatican, even though in many ways it simply is not. Although I respect the Pope,I see cracks in him and the Vatican as a whole. Papal infallibility (which I’m still on the fence about) only extends to matters of Dogma or rulings regarding faith and morals and not the everyday dealings of The Church.

    Also, I wouldn’t call leading a celibate life “sexual oppression” or “unhealthy.”

  9. “Papal infallibility (which I’m still on the fence about) only extends to matters of Dogma or rulings regarding faith and morals and not the everyday dealings of The Church.”

    And if I remember right, the only doctrine that has ever been afforded the status of an infallible pronouncement is the doctrine of the physical assumption into heaven of Mary. The papacy is too smart to stake “infallibility” on any claim that has the remotest chance of ever being proven wrong.

  10. The Church is an organization. It has policies and manuals and regulations. It has hierarchies of men and political maneuvering for position and advancement. It builds $3 billion dollar malls and owns ranches and farms and hunting grounds and temples and real estate. It collects statistics and numbers and money.

    The gospel is what changes peoples lives and is what is important.

    Occasionally, the two intersect in a good way. Occasionally, there are aspects of the Church that help change someone’s lives for the better and help them approach deity. They also sometimes intersect in a bad way. Many of the aspects of the Church organization have much, much more in common with your average corporation than a religion. This is very distasteful and can sometimes cause people to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”. For some people, there is enough of the gospel in the Church to make staying worth their while. For others, there is too little of the gospel in the Church, so they move on.

  11. Dblock,

    I don’t believe it is doctrinal that if a person doesn’t marry in here, they are not eligible for all that the Father has. Certainly, our own discipleship is the only thing we can control directly and many things will need to be rectified in the next life. This is something I appreciate about the Mormon and Catholic churches is the emphasis on discipleship rather than the faith/works false dichotomy.

  12. Dblock – I have heard a dozen conference addresses in which the speaker states that if a woman, through no fault of her own, is unmarried in this life, she will not be denied any blessing in the next. You need to study up more on that before criticizing. My view is that if it is a priesthood holder’s responsibility to marry, it is a woman’s responsibility to prepare herself intellectually and spiritually, and to be attractive and available. Whether or not you do this tells you if marriage is your heart’s desire. Personally, if I were a faithful LDS man looking for a wife, and you expressed your opinions to me, as you did in your comment, I think you would immediately be off my list.

    Also, you need to study up on polygamy. I have never heard any authority deny that Mormons practiced polygamy, only explain it. Mormons still believe in polygamy, we just don’t practice it because we are obedient to the Lord’s representatives. Both of my grandmothers were children in polygamous families, and I’m proud of it. Polygamy was very much a part of the Old Testament, and even into New Testament times. Martin Luther once counseled a man, I believe it was a German prince, to take another wife.

    When David sinned with the wife of Uriah, the prophet Samuel told him “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.”

    David already had two wives, and here we have Samuel telling David that he (God) gave David all of Saul’s wives! The patriarchs Abraham, Israel, and Moses were polygamists. Where did Jesus ever say a word against polygamy? Is it God who universally condemns polygamy, or politically-correct men?

    The more I study Mormonism, the more sense it makes to me. I don’t fall for emotional arguments, and I find that when I understand criticisms of my church, and the informed responses, my views of God and His ways have matured. If you have criticisms of the Church, I recommend a visit to FAIRLDS.ORG if you really want to understand. TG

  13. Celibacy is the state of perfect abstinence that is practiced and maintained by priests and bishops and those members of th the permanent diaconate who have never married or are widowed. Laity have practiced celibacy in keeping with the long-standing tradition of the Church as expressed by St. Paul (1 Cor. 7:32,34). Ecclesiastical elibcy is the ages long tradition of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, the rule taking as a spiritual foundation in Christ’s discourse in Matt 19:10-12. Vatican Council II reaffirmed celibacy as a discipline of the Church. This Council stated that “the whole priestly mission is dedicated to that new humanity which Christ, the conqueror of death, raises up in the world through His Spirit. This humanity takes its origin ‘not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God’ (John 1:13). Through celibacy observed for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, priests are consecrated in a new and distinguished way. They more easily hold to Him with an undivided heart. The more freely devote themselves in Him and through Him to the service of God and man[kind]” (Presbyterorum Ordines, No. 16)

    In the early Church, celibacy wasn’t the general rule. Instead, it developed as an increasing discipline by those men and women who entered into an exclusively religious life, particularly among hermits and members of the monastic communities founded by St. Pachomius (d. 346). The important declaration by the Church in favor of celibacy was pronounced by the Council of Elvira (305) at Spain. This declaration was followed by the Councils of Galatia and Cappadocia in 315, and the highly influential First Council of Nicaea (325) at which it was decided to accept the prohibition of marriage after ordination.

    While affirmed by the Roman council in 386 and other assemblies, celibacy was not universally recognized in the Latin Rite until the 11th Century and the Gregorian Reforms. At the Synod of Sutri (1074) convened by Pope Gregory VII (r. 1073-1085), priests were not allowed to marry and married men wer declared ineligible for ordination. From Gregory’s papacy forward, The Church has remained absolutely firm on the rule, despite secular pressure to relax it and the demands of the leaders of the Reformation that the clergy be permitted to marry. Confronted by the Reformation, the Council of Trent (1545-1563) was abundantl clear that celibacy was mandatory and that anyone who taught otherwise would be anathematized. The rule of celibacy remains firm in the modern Latin (Western) Rite of the Church, part of the recognition of its value to the priestly life and its enhancement of the priesthood.

  14. In reply to Thomas–

    The pope is infallible only on teaching and proclaiming matters of faith and morals that must be held by the entire Church and those teachings and proclamations ex cathedra (from the chair); thus, official teachings of the Catholic Church.

    Two, and only two, such pronouncements have been declared: The doctrine of papal infallibility itself (proclaimed 18 July 1870 by Pope Pius IX) and the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854). The doctrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was declared much later by Pius XII.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *