In a curious use of phraseology, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi described the next stage in the canonization process of John Paul II: “Now comes the examination of a miracle, which is the proof of the divine interceding power of John Paul II on behalf of God.” Proof. This is what caught my eye in reading the quote. Someone prays for the intercession of JPII, and gets well, but is positive correlation proof? I pray for an end to the rain during a rain-shower and it suddenly stops raining. Proof? David Hume argues that we really don’t understand the links in a cause/effect. We don’t even have to go to Hume to make the point that positive correlation is not causation. Were a religionist to reply that religious proof is of a different sort than that which is ordinarily used, I would say that religionists should find another word. Otherwise, I would be justified in taking liberties too, such as calling a veggie burger a hamberger. Too bad if vegitarians miss out on the burgers because I took liberties with the terms. Of course, my overall point is that the canonization process of the Roman Catholic Church is fundamentally flawed. Because positive correlation is easier to reach than is causation, the gates are indeed open quite wide for whomever the Church officials wish to make a saint. When they consider one of themselves, we can add a personal and institutional conflict of interest to the problematic nature of their “proof.” Perhaps November 1st should be called “Friends Day” rather than “All Saints Day.” Essentially, the canonization process is a way for clergy to recognize their friends (and themselves). Such convenience is hardly of the humility of self-emptying agape as evinced on the Cross.
Posts Tagged ‘conflict-of-interest’
“While I greatly respect the Catholic Church and its leaders, like many Rhode Islanders, the fact that I disagree with the hierarchy of the church on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic,” Rep. Patrick Kennedy (a son of the late Ted Kennedy) wrote in a letter to Tobin, agreeing to a sitdown. “I embrace my faith which acknowledges the existence of an imperfect humanity.”
“Sorry, you can’t chalk it up to an ‘imperfect humanity.’ Your position is unacceptable to the Church and scandalous to many of our members. It absolutely diminishes your Communion with the Church,” Tobin (Catholic Bishop of RI) wrote. It is disputed whether the bishop has barred Kennedy from receiving communion in RI, or simply asked him not to do so. The bishop claims he did not tell his priests to refuse to give Kennedy communion.
Analysis: There is perhaps an interesting question regarding the reference of an “imperfect humanity.” Is Kennedy referring to those people who accidently get pregnant or to the men having ecclesialastical positions in the Catholic Church? Kennedy could be saying that differing from the men who run the Church on particular societal issues ought not put one’s salvation at risk. If so, then Tobin’s claim that imperfect humanity does not apply to him involves a conflict of interest. Moreover, the fact that he and Kennedy had gotten into a public spat means that Tobin’s act to barr Kennedy from receiving communion also involves a conflict of interest. Tobin’s first mistake was in violating his pastoral role by getting into a brawl with Kennedy. Any subsequent “pronouncements” are tainted by Tobin’s self-interest as a party to a brawl of sorts, and thus illegitimate. Given human nature, none of us can properly vaunt himself or herself above others in terms of that nature. The best we can do is to try to help each other. I don’t see that happening in this case. Instead, I see the antithesis of what Jesus evinced and stood for. To try to say that “loving thy enemy” means barring him demonstates the extent to which Christianity can be bent to fit one’s interests in the guise of something else. More than anything, transparency is needed in how Christianity is abused. That it can happen by those presumably closest to it may be why Jesus points to the outsider and the stranger as having greater faith than those we would expect. Christianity needs to be applied to Christianity. “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matt 20:16). There is also Matt 23. “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses. … And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.” The extent of mental gymnastics that has been involved in finessing that line is truly amazing.
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I would like to call attention to the conflicts-of-interest and element of self-interest that are often glossed over in religious matters. I submit that making transparent these elements would improve religious discourse and religion itself because the infected pronouncements and declarations could be “re-calibrated,” or revalued, in terms of their credibility.
For example, say I was holding an office in a religious organization and I said, “Any member who leaves this religion risks losing their salvation.” Even if my religious organization taught that membership is required for salvation, the conflict-of-interest both for the institution and myself renders this teaching or pronouncement null and void unless made by someone of another religion (i.e., who does not have the conflict-of-interest). At the very least, we ought to make a footnote acknowledging the conflict-of-interest. Yet how often do we insist on this? My point is that self-interest, either collectively or individually, is not absent from religious discourse, and the related conflicts-of-interest ought to be recognized and treated as such in pronouncements that are tinged by them.
This criterion could be applied to religious texts just as well as religious functionaries (and laity). As an experiment, someone might go through a religious scripture, identifying all of the passages involving a conflict-of-interest for the writer or the religion itself. Removing all those passages, how would the text look? This is essentially a hermeneutic designed to make religion more honest–to hold it and its sponsors more accountable, given the salience of self-interest in all of us.