In my second year of studying History I will be studying the Catholic Church, in its capacity as a universal religion and how it came to be in such a prominent position in such a short space of time. It was the very first universal religion, it covers every continent and has billions of members. Therefore, it has a very powerful hold over many people and not just its members.
I was brought up in an Irish Catholic family, I attended mass every Sunday up until the age of 8 and I spent 14 years attending Catholic schools (for those who don't know, most schools in Northern Ireland are split up into Protestant and Catholic). Even with all this influence I was never "religious" in the truest sense, to put it better I stopped becoming a practicing Catholic. However, I retained a strong sense of "spirituality", culturally I may have been Catholic in reality by the time I was 16 I had moved away from organised religion completely.
There is something very rigid about having to conform to an organisation's rules and regulations. How to be good, how to get to heaven. I soon realised these rules excluded millions of people who practiced other religions, who were gay, who didn't receive communion, who used contraception, who practiced abortion etc (hot topic I know, and your opinion is your own). I trust completely in my ability to know what is right and what is wrong, and much of what happens within the Catholic Church is wrong.
Pope Benedict recently made an interesting and stereotypically anachronistic statement about the use of condoms in the prevention of HIV. He said that It would increase promiscuity, and therefore increase the risk of disease. I will explain to you why he is wrong; The whole of the developed world is virtually HIV free due to sex education and the availability of condoms. Before Easter I studied development in "developing" countries, such as Africa, like most reasonably educated people in the world I already knew how vital condoms were for the prevention of HIV in developing countries, however I was not aware of the socio-economic benefits of their use. It gives women and children a better quality of life, as they are able to stay healthy and plan for as many children as they can afford to keep and especially if they are not physically fit to bear children. Not only is this empowering for women it also lowers the birthrate which contributes to its economic development.
I recently sat in on a round table meeting full of development experts talking about how best to empower women, and there was no question as to whether condoms had the power to do this or not; of course they could! It is unfounded and archaic statements, like Pope Benedict's which highlight the Church for its anachronistic self.
Furthermore, the very idea that women in any way, shape or form cannot or don't possess the ability to be priests or Bishops is absolutely absurd! The majority of Catholics are women, and they are the people who do the charity work, who clean the churches, look after the priests, the nuns who make communion. If Women are the foundation of the Catholic Church, why is it run by men?
Lastly and very briefly, on arriving home at Easter I was bombarded with news of the emerging sex scandals and abuse involving my local priests. For years this has been kept secret and many members of my home town do not wish to tarnish a priest's name. It has also emerged that Cardinal Brady has been covering up for these priests, as far as I am concerned they should be tried in a secular/public court. They are after all, only men who have been placed in a position of trust and abused it disgustingly.
I do not claim all religion is bad, nor do I claim that all priest are bad for neither of these would be true. I truly believe that a lot of good can come from religion and what ever evil there is in the world comes solely from man decision to do so.
I will end this article with 3 solid words of advice for the Catholic Church, Acountability, Progression and Women!