Yesterday, the Globe and Mail published an AP story by Nicole Winfield (May 16, 2010, updated on May 17) entitled, “Thousands Flock to Vatican to Back Pope Over Abuse.”

at the Vatican (c) J MacDonald 2011

at the Vatican (c) J MacDonald 2011

According to the report, approximately 150,000 people showed up in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, May 16, in a spontaneous show of support for Pope Benedict XVI. Banners had been hung in the colonnade, including a banner that said, “Don’t be afraid, Jesus won out over evil.”

The article quotes the Pope as saying, “The true enemy to fear and to fight against is sin, the spiritual evil that unfortunately sometimes infects even members of the church.”

The mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, was among the faithful in the Square. Alemanno told AP journalists that “we want to show our solidarity to the the pope and transmit the message that single individuals make mistakes but institutions, faith and religion cannot be questioned.”

Meanwhile, on the home front here in Canada, the Roman Catholic Primate of Canada, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, is in hot water because he was “simply stating church doctrine” when he told a reporter that it’s always morally wrong for a woman to have an abortion, even in cases where the woman has been raped (Nelson Wyatt, “Statement From Catholic Cardinal About Abortion and Rape Causes Uproar,” The Globe and Mail, May 18, 2010).

Notice here that church doctrines — the formal belief statements touted by the church as “truth” — are being placed on a pedestal. The doctrines themselves are sacred. Sacrosanct. Holy. They act as a divine shield against that horrible cosmic power called “sin” or “the Devil.” Unfortunately, individual people sometimes get attacked by evil despite the protective power of these doctrines. Therefore, the faithful must redouble their efforts to obey the moral laws contained within the doctrines. It’s all right to challenge the actions of individual abusers, but it’s not all right to challenge the doctrines that contribute to the creation of these abusers. Even when the doctrines violate all common sense and all common humanity, the doctrines are right and you are wrong.

These Christian leaders show us that they are cowards. They lack the courage to trust in God, they lack the courage to take responsibility for the historical errors of church doctrine, and they lack the courage to make meaningful changes.

I see no evidence in their teachings or in their behaviour that they actually believe in a loving God. However, I see plenty of evidence that they believe in a God who loves some children more than “he” loves others (i.e. election), who is too stupid and too weak to prevent cosmic sin from entering Creation, who thinks it’s okay to hold a major grudge-fest for all eternity against one man and one woman who made a mistake (i.e. Adam and Eve), who is required to follow all the laws and doctrines that male church leaders have dictated to God over the centuries, who is going to have a really big yard sale one day in the future to clear out all the unwanted garbage ( that garbage might be you, according to the church’s teachings about Judgment Day!), and who is so touchy and narcissistic and sensitive to an attack on “his” sense of honour that he couldn’t stand the thought of fixing the sinful world alone, and had to send in a pinch-hitter (Jesus) to save “Team Humanity” from that wily guy who’s pitching for the other side.

Does this sound like the kind of God you want to get close to? Because this is the God that fills the pages of orthodox Western Christian theology. This is the portrait of God that “cannot be questioned.” This is the portrait of God that cowards like to hide behind.

Not every church leader is a coward, and not every Christian is a coward. These days, individuals from all religious traditions are challenging the teachings of their conservative leaders, and are asking daring questions about God. Some of these people are so distressed by the narcissistic intransigence of their own conservative religious leaders that they’re leaving the church and seeking spiritual solace in other ways.

Please ask all the questions you can. Only through our honest questions and honest answers can the church of the third millennium heal the sense of “brokenness” that many writers have described.

Please help find a way to invite God the Mother and God the Father into our hearts and our lives. Our beloved Mother and Father are nothing like the fickle, judgmental, authoritarian dude described above. Jesus knew this. I’ve had the privilege to come to know this. I invite you to know this, too. God loves all their children.

Even you.

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