No, I am not going to announce my conversion back to Catholicism. Sorry to disappoint some of my readers who have had their eyes on my head for years, hoping to put it up on their wall as a trophy. Mine is the head not just of your run-of-the-mill atheist renegade, but that of an ex-priest and a former Professor of Theology to boot. It would take more than their Thomistic lucubrations to get me to say that my rejection of religion was a mistake. The mistake I made was taking so long to reject it.
I must tell you why I have chosen to share a few thoughts on the subject of admitting mistakes. I heard yesterday on the news that Saudi Arabia has decided not only to let women vote, but to allow them to be elected to political office. In New Zealand, and shortly afterwards in Australia, we did the same thing. But that was in 1902. Over a century later Saudi Arabia has finally recognized that people without penises should have the same rights as those so endowed. Well, let’s not exaggerate : SOME of men’s rights . . .
It is not easy for individuals, groups, nations and especially religions to admit they were wrong. It took Australia 200 years to say we are sorry for what we did to the Aborigines, whose country we stole, whose tribes we decimated and whose culture we are just beginning to appreciate. It took the Vatican twice as long, 400 years, but the Catholic Church finally managed to admit that it was WRONG, intellectually, scientifically, and I would add morally, in condemning a scientific genius for daring to contradict the Bible by affirming that geocentrism is garbage. Galileo was more polite than I, but after his condemnation, under his breath, although he had just been forced to deny it publicly, he continued to insist “But it (the Earth) does go round the Sun !” In 1517 a Catholic priest-theologian rejected a whole shaft of doctrines taught by Rome, in particular that which justified the lucrative sale of Indulgences. The Church’s reaction to Luther’s 95 Theses was condemnation and the Counter-Reformation. Catholicism never admitted it was wrong, and rejected in toto the protestations of Protestantism.
There is absolutely no way Catholicism, other Christian denominations or any other world religion will ever admit it was wrong about the existence of God, about the divine revelation they all claim to have received, and the after-life which is their stock-in-trade. The best that liberal Catholics can hope for is a re-thinking of some of its doctrines (as it did with Limbo) and the relaxing of some of its more stringent rules (as it did when it reduced the obligatory fast before Communion from midnight to one hour before Mass : big deal !). The last time the Vatican seriously attempted to “modernize” the Church, in the Council of 1962-1965, it intended to “let in a little fresh air”, but its timid reforms were considered an abomination by many traditional Catholics, increasingly vocal ever since.
Fortunately many once fervent Catholics have made up their own minds, and whether or not the Church is ready to admit it was wrong, they have dared to admit that their own belief was a mistake. I am one of them, and I willingly admit I was wrong, not only in believing Catholic doctrines but in teaching and preaching them. I hope this Blog makes up for the mistakes I made during the first half of my life. I can never go back. It would be like proclaiming that I was wrong to stop believing in Santa Claus. “When I was a child”, wrote St Paul, “I thought like a child” . . .