Oh Come All Ye Faithful

I don’t write about so-called matters of faith very much, preferring to leave that to people to whom those things matter more, but the recent announcement by the Vatican to disenchanted Anglicans and Episcopalians that the Roman Catholic Church would not only invite them into their flock but would even accommodate their entry by adopting some of their liturgical forms gave this religious cynic pause. The first thought I had upon reading of the Vatican’s decision was that it made sense. The Roman Church is catering to the homophobes in the Anglican formation. Ever since the appointment of an openly gay bishop to the head of the American wing, many Episcopalians have struggled with their faith and their allegiance to their church. In the meantime, the Roman Catholic Church has actively funded campaigns against gay equality and has stepped up their campaign against homosexuality.

The second thought I had upon reading about the Vatican’s decision was that this was the religious version of a corporate takeover. Look, says the Vatican to those disaffected Anglicans and Episcopalians, your spiritual stock may be down because of the decisions of your church elders to accept all of god’s children into its flock as equals, but our church would never do such a thing. So, invest your soul with us. It’s a masterstroke of corporate raiding. Not only does the Vatican pick up some membership in North America, where its numbers have been declining for decades, but it also picks up the monies those former members of the Anglican churches give to their churches. In fact, when one considers the money, it is truly a masterstroke, since the Vatican’s most recent adherents come from the planet’s poorer continents, especially Africa. With the potential increase in relatively wealthy homophobic converts, the full coffers of the Catholic Church should increase even more.

It would be false to pretend that the entire reason for the growing disenchantment of conservative Anglicans is the election of an openly gay bishop to head the Episcopal Church in the United States. However, it is safe to say that this election was the straw that broke the proverbial camels back for those members. As the Anglican churches have grown increasingly liberal in their doctrine and approach to social justice, more and more traditionally conservative parishes and individual members have become extremely uncomfortable. In other words, the social gospel of Jesus makes certain Christians uneasy. If one considers the historical relationship of the Anglican Church to the British monarchist social order, it makes particular sense that the liberal interpretation of that gospel would make many church members question their allegiance. Like the Roman Catholic hierarchy, which has its struggle between liberal and conservative elements, the Anglican churches are undergoing a crisis. At this moment in history, it looks like the more conservative elements of the Vatican have won in the arenas where it actually has influence (leaving its position opposing imperial war and decrying poverty caused by global capitalism intact but essentially irrelevant), while in the Anglican churches it appears that the liberal elements have the upper hand.

Of course, neither of these powerful churches have the political power of the Christian faithful that align themselves with the fundamentalist churches across the United States. We are all familiar with these believers role in US elections the past few decades. When the fundamentalist churches ally themselves with the Catholic hierarchy—most often around their opposition to birth control and abortion—they can turn elections. When these two forces align themselves with the Mormon Church, as they did in California’s most recent election referendum against gay marriage, they proved the even greater power of that trinity.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground and Tripping Through the American Night, and the novels Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator's Tale. His third novel All the Sinners, Saints is a companion to the previous two and was published early in 2013. Read other articles by Ron.

15 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Michael Kenny said on October 29th, 2009 at 10:04am #

    Amusing! In the original version of this, Mr Jacobs claimed that the whole thing had been done to get at the money of wealthy US Episcopalians. As if the Catholic Church needed money! (Have you seen where the Pope lives?) Galileo was right, Mr Jacobs! The Earth rotates around the Sun, it does not rotate around the United States! Most likely, this is aimed at English-speaking Africa, from whence the loudest rumblings in the Anglican Communion have come, where (thanks to Irish Catholic missionaries), the Catholic Church is predominant and where it has the great advantage (in competing with Islam) of not being the former colonial power’s religion. I loved the bit about Pope Benedict’s reminders of the Church’s traditional social teaching and his opposition to US wars being “irrelevant”. In his next article, Mr Jacobs will no doubt tell us why that is!

  2. bozhidar balkas vancouver said on October 29th, 2009 at 10:25am #

    Religions, to me, appear as schools of thought. Adherents to religions are merely ideating-feeling or feeling-ideating. And this is what i have been doing all my life just like everybody else.

    The difference btwn my feeling-thinking and pious people’s is in the main that i do not posit knowledge a priori; i.e., knowing before experiencing.

    So we all are feeling-thinking-speaking where feelings influence our thinking and thinking our choice of words and vice versa. There is no separation of these aspects of being; it is really one entity.

    Nobody had seen [experienced] god, soul, angels, satan. No one will ever see them. So why chase after illusions? And, to boot, a pack of snark chasers hating, killing, oppressing packs of other chasers for the snark?

    Is it any wonder that with people studying unseeables instead of seeing the seeables such as wars, poverty that we have just that! tnx

  3. kalidas said on October 29th, 2009 at 10:50am #

    If you lean in and peek a little closer, real close, you just might see that 729 bar code embedded in the Pope’s little, well, just what IS that he’s wearing on top of his head?

    Now that’s what I call leading the opposition.

  4. Melissa said on October 29th, 2009 at 10:54am #

    “Is it any wonder that with people studying unseeables instead of seeing the seeables such as wars, poverty that we have just that! tnx” -bozh

    And bozh nails it again.


  5. ron said on October 29th, 2009 at 10:57am #

    I never said it was to get at the monies of the Epicopalians. I did say that was a benefit that the Vatican most likely considered. As for the Vatican’s words about war and poverty, let me explain to old Mr. Kenny why it is irrelevant. Why? Because the Vatican mouths words about peace while wars rage around it. It tells its followers to be merciful and help the poor while the Pope sits amidst riches and invests moneies in global capitalist enterprises which exacerbate world poverty. (Pope John Paul VI actually had the nerve to spend millions of dollars to travel to Latin America once and then in true magnaminity, gave away one of his rings to a priest that worked solely with street kids on Brazil. Why didn’t the Vatican just give the priest and others like him the monies they spent to bring the Pope to brazil. And I won’t even get into the Vatican’s hatred of liberation theology–a system of Catholic thought that would truly free the poor from their poverty if followed)). In other words, its words are irrelevant because they are mostly just words. As I have stated to Mr. Kenny before, I was raised Catholic, seriously considered the priesthood but ended up not joining because of the Vatican’s stance on women. However, in my years of antiwar and antiracist work some of the most committed and wonderful people I have worked with were priests and nuns. It’s not those people I have a problem with, it’s the institution of the Church–whose history, by the way, is full of power plays, money-making scandals and “one true religion” nonsense (like almost all forms of the the monotheistic religions.)

  6. Jim said on October 29th, 2009 at 1:02pm #

    The creation of what modern psychology/the recovery movement accurately labels toxic shame and guilt has always been a key strategy of religions, used to bind people to their beliefs. The mechanisms, including the induction of sexual guilt and shame, are very well described by Darrel W. Ray, Ed.D. in his recently published book, The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture.

    I was brought up Catholic in the Fifties, and included in the Catholic school system’s mileau of emotional and physical abuse, disguised as discipline, was a heavy dose of rigid, shaming, guilt-inducing sexual rules one could never keep. As one example: before we had any idea of masturbating, as preadolescents, we were even forbidden to put our hands in our pockets as we walked, being told by constantly angry, sexually repressed nuns that it was a “near occasion of sin” in which we might play with ourselves. Then, of course, there was direct sexual abuse with the psychological sexual abuse and the daily diet of humiliation and poisonous pedagogy (See Alice Miller).

    It is a sick irony that at the same time Benedikt stands accused (with a good amount of evidence to back the accusations) that as Cardinal Ratzinger he directly interfered with the ability of US law enforcement officials to detect and prosecute pedophile Catholic priests, he also has no qualms about trying to amp up discrimination against the GLBT community in order to gain bodies, and income, from bigoted Anglicans just as the GLBT liberation movements are seeing some successes.

  7. bozhidar balkas vancouver said on October 29th, 2009 at 2:42pm #

    Thanks melissa.
    The young-old man of 78 cherishes the compliment. And especially since i finished last in my class.
    And in a class that just taught writing and counting to 20. tnx

  8. lichen said on October 29th, 2009 at 3:55pm #

    Excellent post, Jim! What an insulting, body-hating view those insipid nuns you describe had; taking out on little boys the fact that they were duped into living a seriously disgusting life.

  9. Sam said on October 29th, 2009 at 8:25pm #

    The author of the article wrote:

    “It would be false to pretend that the entire reason for the growing disenchantment of conservative Anglicans is the election of an openly gay bishop to head the Episcopal Church in the United States. However, it is safe to say that this election was the straw that broke the proverbial camels back for those members.”


    There is a mistake in there. Bishop Gene Robinson is *not* the head of the Episcopal Church here in the States. Katharine Jefferts Schori is the presiding Bishop.

    Gene Robinson is the openly gay ninth bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. I think that is the person the author is referring to when he writes, ” …the election of an openly gay bishop.” However, Gene Robinson is *not* the head of the Episcopal church here in the States.

  10. mary said on October 29th, 2009 at 11:12pm #

    I remember Gary Corseri’s fine satirical poem ‘When The Pope Came to America’.


  11. hmmm said on October 30th, 2009 at 6:23pm #

    “Galileo was right, Mr Jacobs! The Earth rotates around the Sun, it does not rotate around the United States!” Good thing you reminded us of Galileo, Mr. Kenny. You mean, the same Galileo who was forced to renounce his observations and theories or face burning at the stake by your Catholic Church?

    (Mind you, not that I think that any of the other churches or religions are any better, really, it’s all about power and money and keeping the desperate people “content” with their lives and spreading ignorance and despair, masquerading as contentness and fullness of life).

    You know, burning at stake, as was done to Giordano Bruno in Lord’s year 1600, another independent thinker of Galileo’s time. Or to gazillions of “witches”. Let’s not mention the crusades or the inquisition. Or the endless wars and instability in Europe that the pope was the chief instigator of? Or the various pogroms of the Jews and others. How a mere possession of a “forbidden book” could land you in a big pot of boiling oil.

    Let’s even forget the shameful conduct of this church (as well as others) in WW2 and immediately after. Where was their high morality then, their condemnation of wars, killing and suffering?

    “I loved the bit about Pope Benedict’s reminders of the Church’s traditional social teaching and his opposition to US wars being “irrelevant”.” I am sure this pope, as all others, are oh so moral and able to preach to us mere mortals about our sins (never about THEIR sins), which, to be sure, are plenty. Good for him I say.

    But not a pipsqueak from him (or his predecessor) about the scandalous behavior of his church in OUR times (let us forget the past unforgivables, for which they should be quiet as a mouse for the next 10,000 years at least). You know, their priests raping (mostly) young defenseless boys, by the zillions, and then being shuttled from one church to the next, to repeat their crimes, and being protected by the church in any imaginable way, in an “us vs. them” attitude and to hell with morality. As a matter of fact, this pope actively erected a wall of silence and refusal to even apologize.

    But that of course, mostly happened in the US (or is mostly talked about here), so who cares. Fuck the defenseless US boys, right Mike, they are evil because they were born in the wrong country. So they deserve what they got. Right in keeping with your view of the world. The moralizing hypocrisy knows no bounds, right Mike?

    And of course, the high moral ground of promoting poverty and despair the world over by their ludicrous anti birth control preaching.

  12. dan e said on October 31st, 2009 at 10:22am #

    Mike the Monsignor Manque exposes himself again! hahaha:)

  13. kalidas said on October 31st, 2009 at 3:18pm #

    In all fairness to Catholics…

    “Reporter Paul Vitello shows the shocking extent of child sexual abuse in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community. He also details the cover-ups that have long been aided and abetted by law enforcement.
    Where have all the church-and-state advocates been all these years when Orthodox rabbis were allowed by the D.A.’s office to settle these cases “internally”?
    Where have all the professional victims’ groups been in staging protests outside synagogues?
    Where have all the sue-happy lawyers been seeking to plunder the Orthodox?
    Where have all the comedians and late-night entertainers been in cracking jokes about rabbis raping kids?

    and this bit from slate: Should the USA allow cases of child rape in rabbinical court?
    In the UK we only allow cases of a criminal nature to be heard in State criminal courts, however it seems that in the USA you have had Jewish “Beth Din” courts for decades.

    Isn’t that special?

  14. Annie said on November 2nd, 2009 at 8:35am #

    It seems to me that Mr. Jacobs observations are pretty much dead-on.
    Indeed the Catholic Church will benefit from the influx of new members, their time and their presence. And certainly they calculated these things before they made their decision. There is no doubt that the Catholic church has done awful things in the name of Jesus; converting the King of Kongo and then selling him and his subjects into slavery is one of my favorites, and the most recent visit to the African Continent by the Pope, wherein he told followers that it was a sin to use a condom (!?!?) is another. But the worst of the worst cannot overpower the best of the best, by which I refer to Mother Teresa. While I’m sure she was a staunch supporter of the Pope, she was love in action. It did not matter to here what religion you were, what your lifestyle was, where you came from, or how much money you had, she would put you to work or she would touch and love you as you died. Yes, the Catholic church and other churches are guilty of the worst things, but there are many who associate with those churches who do take the gospel of justice to heart and who try to share that gospel with the world.

  15. kalidas said on November 2nd, 2009 at 1:45pm #

    Come to think of it, I can’t ever remember ever, not even once, a protest outside of a synagogue for any reason what so ever. Never ever once. Not one.

    Another how very very SPECIAL.