I am looking for you help (yet again) in responding to a letter to the editor which appeared in an Irish newspaper recently. The writer has sought to show that the Church has been guilty of hypocrisy throughout its history. The letter can be found here.
"Your correspondent Bonnie Malkin has reported that Pope Benedict (Irish Independent, July 18) has attacked ‘false idols’ and consumerism in an address to pilgrims in Sydney and he linked consumerism to climate change.
The Catholic Church is on thin ice in seeking to demonise people for what it sees as the sin of consumerism, given its own past. The Church, for much of its history, supported the concept of slavery whereby human beings were reduced to the status of ‘consumer goods’ to be bought and sold.
The exact date when the Church unequivocally repudiated slavery is uncertain. Different authorities offer dates ranging from the 1500s to the Second Vatican Council.
Another example of the Catholic Church’s long engagement with consumerism is the 16th-century scandal of the sale of indulgences. This practice was instrumental in the rise of Protestantism.
As regards false idols, the recent exhumation and display of the remains of Padre Pio has to be regarded as a particularly gruesome exercise in tapping in to the religious consumer market and one that leaves the Church vulnerable to the accusation of creating its own idols.
Finally, unrestricted population growth is a major contributor to global warming, and here the Church’s opposition to contraception is both encouraging this growth and exacerbating the problems associated with it."
I have some ideas for a response myself, but as always, would like to hear your views too! The writer, it seems to me is clutching at straws to find examples of hypocrisy by including the point about contraception - after all, the areas of greatest population growth in the world are in the Third World where, generally, the Catholic population is quite small. Thus, most of the population are not bound to adhere to the Church’s teaching on the matter, but the Church is to many an easy target when it comes to the contraception argument…
Looking forward to hearing your responses! Many thanks.