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Dr. Christian Sorensen on the Roman Catholic Church

2022-04-27

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): The Good Men Project

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2020/10/18

Christian is a Philosopher that comes from Belgium. What identifies him the most and above all is simplicity, for everything is better with “vanilla ice cream.” Perhaps, for this reason, his intellectual passion is criticism and irony, in the sense of trying to reveal what “hides behind the mask,” and give birth to the true. For him, ignorance and knowledge never “cross paths.” What he likes the most in his leisure time, is to go for a walk with his wife. 

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: The particular conversation will cover Roman Catholicism or the Roman Catholic Church. Encyclopædia Britannica describes “Roman Catholicism”[1] as follows:

Roman Catholicism, Christian church that has been the decisive spiritual force in the history of Western civilization. Along with Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism, it is one of the three major branches of Christianity.

The Roman Catholic Church traces its history to Jesus Christ and the Apostles. (Oakley et al., 2020)

Georgetown University: Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs in “Roman Catholic Church” (n.d.) states: 

The Roman Catholic Church is the world’s largest Christian denomination, representing around half of all Christians with 1.1 billion followers. The Church traditionally believes that Jesus of Nazareth entrusted the authority of his young church to his apostle Simon Peter (ca. 1 BC – 67 CE), who would become the first Bishop of Rome, an office now known as the papacy. The spiritual primacy of the Bishop of Rome as pope over all other bishops is the central issue that distinguishes Catholicism from other Christian belief systems.

The late Rev. Dr. George V. Coyne, S.J. added: 

By many the Catholic Church is seen as primarily hierarchical, an organizational structure: Pope, Vatican Congregations, Diocesan bishops, national conferences of bishops. The Church is clearly that but not primarily that. The Church is God’s people on pilgrimage. The popular phrase is: “We are the Church.” The hierarchical structure is at the service of God’s people, as Pope Francis continues to emphasize and as, based on a solid Scriptural tradition, was so declared in very clear terms by Vatican Council II. One is judged as a “good” Catholic by one’s adherence to doctrinal and moral statements of the hierarchy and putting them into practice. Again, that is quite important but not primary. Primary is accepting God’s love for us, received in a community, and spreading that love as far as we can, beginning here and now. (Jacobsen, 2014)

These definitions give the advertised standard position and the more nuanced Jesuit position on Roman Catholicism in its vision, size, history, and aims on the face. If we peer behind the skull, then we may find some different things. We will, in due time, and if persistence on the part of the reader, cover the 3-pound mass of the man behind the curtain some more. Since we have the standard definitions from reasonable and consistent sources on Roman Catholicism, some may know the history for you. Others may not know for you. If they wish for more details, then there exist plenty of resources and productions online by the two of us via conversation in text. What stands out about the descriptions of Roman Catholicism to you?

Dr. Christian Sorensen: It draws the attention of the definitions that describe Roman Catholicism, and of what can be inferred directly and indirectly from them, that Catholicism, is the only religion within not only the Christian’s ones, but also regarding all, that attributes a character of divinity, and therefore of sanctity and infallibility, to the supreme pontiff or pope, as the maximum hierarchical authority, when the weight of empirical evidence, historically speaking, not only distances them almost completely from what could be holy and divine realities, but also contradicts these. Even though if the mere human imperfections are left aside, the vices and corruptions, by which they have embodied Western civilization, with the debauchery of their licentious lives, are of such magnitude and density, that it is impossible to ignore or pass them through, without stopping and examine what’s going on. As a result of this confrontation between reality and an inverted divinity, the fact of realizing that who’s the head of the Vatican state, is simultaneously also considered as god’s representative on earth, and as the guardian of wisdom, due to the reason, that in his power, it is found all the authority to doctrinally interpret the oral and written word of god, without having the possibility of committing any error, when most of the time, cognitive weaknesses can be easily perceived, it is something that frankly puts rationality within limits, and subjects it to the most basic and primitive boundaries of superstition and idiocy. Ultimately the last, leads to an even more bizarre consequence, since regarding those pronouncements, Catholics are obliged, under threat of committing grave sin, to believe blindly on them, as if they were absolute truths that come directly from god, nevertheless on the other hand and paradoxically, the church auto denominates itself with the appellative of catholicity, in relation to which and because of its most primordial meaning, should posess an intrinsic universalism, and therefore presume the presence of a common space that aims to everyone, in order to build within each one, its own inner temple, in terms of the church that’s desired, however this last, has never been possible to carry out. Likewise, if a spiritual hierarchy with an illuminated knowledge, and a supernatural origin is supposed to be believed as something real, then I think, that a moral imperative as a commandment of the communion with god’s visible head, must be followed a priori, because it is of little or no use, that said spiritual communion, it is only relegated for being a decorative part of preaching, in the sense of just remaining as a mere ideal utopia, since it does not correlate with anything of tangible and earthly order. The aforementioned, besides demonstrating that said communion, is not of the hierarchy with its people, puts in evidence, that the hierarchy isn’t precisely at the service of what it’s supposed to be the people of God, on pilgrimage to the kingdom of heaven. Rather it’s an example, of how they serve their own mean interests and their miserable ambitions, and those of their benefactors. Continuing within the same context, it stands out, that it is the only religion that uses the term church, not in its proper meaning, in the sense of being a place or temple for worship, but instead they utilize it for representing a structured organization, that does not revolve precisely around the power of prayer, but on the contrary, prefers to do so, by absorbing themselves into political empowerments, and through the accumulation of wealth, which lastly ends, in the satisfaction of their comforts and excesses, meanwhile Christ appears as a counterpart, when apparently intends to express his option for the poor. In this manner, I also think, that a kind of religious cacophony, occurs between what historical reality says, and what Roman Catholicism manifests, since in my opinion and strictly speaking, this religion should not be considered as what I will denominate revealed religion, due to the fact that in this case, there isn’t a truth transmitted directly by God to men, but on the contrary, there is a man called Jesus Christ, who not just proclaims himself as the Messiah, but that besides appropriates of a Jewish figure of which he distorts its fundamental meaning to the extreme, since he believes and wants to make others believe, that being a god he became a man. I think in practical terms, that actually instead of bringing peace and happiness to the people of Israel, what he did brought with his thought and with what he founded, from the crusades and the inquisition, until the aberrant sexual abuses and perversions of our days, was an ordeal of much more suffering and chaos that the one that existed before him. The latest from my point of view, is far away of the theoretical good new, which Christ pretended to transmit with its evangelizing message of love for the neighbor, and its revolutionary harangue in favor of the poorest and most abandoned. At the same time the aforementioned, nothing has to do with what they proclaim and believe in regards Catholicism would be the unique and true religion, indeed, if the main reasoning is followed further, then it’s possible to constate that even though Jesus was born in the bosom of another religion, afterwards he rebelled and denied it, in order to create what he believed was a more open and less demanding sectarian religion, nevertheless always did utilized Judaism as a partial reference, which was in some way or another puerilely imitated. For this motif, more than being a continuity of something, it is a caricatured reproduction of the original version, where it doesn’t exists any system of beliefs or novel system of precepts as such, but on the contrary, what it’s verified, is that there are a set of ideas and rites, which are accommodated and taken out of context, or invented as pseudo historical events that they load with magical realism. In some situations, the unusual even reaches that simple human beings, are converted into pagan plaster images, which are worshiped as if they were a golden calf…

Jacobsen: What differentiates the internal description of Coyne versus the external descriptions on Roman Catholicism to you?

Sorensen: I think that what Coyne primary establishes as love, and as something that should begins here and now, is a statement, that fails to make what I will name as the closure of the gestalt, therefore as such is a phrase that lacks all sense. I think both definitions of Catholicism, mean basically the same, nevertheless neither of both, is capable to achieve any form of unity as a whole, or as something that would coherently be able to relate both terms, of unity and form, or of the form with its background and their individual parts in relation to each other, so as to close them, with a harmonical construct, as a unique and whole form, cathectized lastly with a significant meaning. In this way, I think that the must-be of these definitions, are evidently and clearly not conditioned to any referential reality in terms of positum. In other words, Coyne’s definition doesn’t means nothing else, beyond its aesthetics, than a simple and mere linguistic resource.

Jacobsen: What should readers expect in this extended interview from you? How can this prepare some for the unrestrained ‘feedback’ or criticism of the Roman Catholic Church? Why emphasize “Italian” as a point of sensitivity to some of the intelligent readers here?

Sorensen: Although I do not like the word expect, perhaps because it makes me think about pregnancies, I think the audience could foresee a descriptive critical analysis, that though it flies widely over Catholicism and the Roman Church, at times stick’s the stinger deeply, in order to try to unveil the foundations of their beliefs and precepts, and the causes of their doctrinal and spiritual inconsistencies. In my opinion, this way of approaching Catholicism as a problem, allows in a second moment, to initiate a discussion around more concrete and contingent questions. I tend to think of two antitheses, when I associate Italy with the Roman Catholic Church, and maybe for that reason, I found the idea of presenting this article with some focus on Italians, is something that can open minds, and therefore something that’s somehow motivating.

Jacobsen: Of the basic premises or claims about the Roman Catholic Church above, what seems most crucial on the outside of the community of the global faithful?

Sorensen: I think that the main premise about the Roman Catholic Church, although it may be something implicit, is the defining of it as the only true religion, at the same time that the gospel says that the truth will set you free. In this regard, I think it is possible to conclude, that Catholicism would not be truth, since I consider that if the idea of ​​the existence of God is accepted, then he could not deceive himself or deceive us, because otherwise God would not be authentic, and consequently due to having an imperfection, he could not be trustworthy or be God. Therefore in turn, if the Catholic Church is not authentic, since its origin refers historically to beliefs and precepts that belong to Judaism, and on the other hand, its doctrine has almost never been seconded by its hierarchical structure, which I’m going to denominate as a sense of unity of life, since I think, that when religious beliefs are preached by an authority that claims to be god on earth, then these must be translated, as a sense of ethics, into virtues and norms of life, if its leadership actually pretends to be morally respected. Nevertheless at this level, neither one or the other, that is to say nor the Catholic belief system, nor its church in terms of hierarchical organization, and much less their jester of god, the pope, actually are going to be authentics as a whole. Therefore, the Roman Catholic Church, not only won’t be the only true religion, but also will not even have a divine origin in which to hold. The above, allows to deduce then, that what the Catholic Church rejects the most, is the truth, and in consequence, what it loves the least, is freedom.

Jacobsen: As a preliminary angle as to gauge the orientation from you, what philosophical or personal historical facts seem important for emphasis here?

Sorensen: The facts are to have been in the wrong place and at the wrong time, because of my mother’s love affairs within her marriage, in other words, to be of Jewish origin, and redundantly, having being raised within an Opus Dei family, having done part of the schooling in a wealthy Opus Dei school, and having completed a doctorate in philosophy with a specialization in metaphysics in Rome, which allowed me from the inside, to know personally and intellectually the Vatican hierarchy.

Jacobsen: We should distinguish between hierarchs and laity in this particular conversation too. Any statements to bring this to the front of mind? For example, oftentimes, the differences between the declarations and stances of the hierarchs in contrast the laity on a wide variety of topics.

Sorensen: The discrepancy between the statements of both, has been a constant throughout history, as well as the themes and the causes of them. In this sense, I think, that the reasons have been an invariable constant, due to the blindness and deafness, that has always accompanied Catholic’s hierarchy, which reflects besides, their insensitivity and lack of humanity, since they prefer to hide their hypocrisy and cynicism, with the mask of forgiveness and oblivion, rather than assume all the damage that they have caused. Seen with perspective, it gives the impression that they mocked, and sadistically enjoy with the misfortune of others. If God actually existed, it is difficult from a logical point of view, even to imagine or believe, that God would tolerate such immense effrontery, or that something so dark and sordid, could come from its being. Concretely, I think that even though certain impasses and scandalous situations are well known, it can be illustrative to mention respectively, some of them, such as have been the irreflexibility in front of priestly celibacy and the rejection of the priestly ordination of women, the interruption of pregnancy and contraception, the sexual aberrations, due to pedophilia, sodomy, abuses and rapes against women, and the financial embezzlement of the Vatican bank. The latest in my opinion, is linked with the indifference, or what I will denominate, as the nothingness attitude, towards the existence of hunger and poverty all over the world. In relation to the aforementioned, something that stands out, is the fact that Jesus have said things such as, that it was easier for a camel to enter through the buttonhole of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. When making this counterposition, it’s possible to observe and verify, practically since the Catholic church became church, which is something indeed shocking for anyone who is sane, the fact that its hierarchy has always lived submerged within pomp and inordinate luxury. Nevertheless the most absurd and surrealist thing, is that despite what was said above, the church considers and perceives itself, as a large and poor family, whose mission is exclusively to provide assistance and spiritual aid to its parishioners, when on the other hand, demands and requires from its people, the scrupulous compliance, not precisely of their prayers for the holy mother church, but instead of their tithes and donations, which if they are not delivered voluntarily, then the church through their priests, chases and harasses them even on the deathbed agony, and if necessary, they trade them in exchange for indulgences that absolve all the sins committed on earth, and guarantee the prize of eternal life.

Jacobsen: What seem like the prime crimes of the Roman Catholic Church?

Sorensen: I think that the Catholic church has always placed in the name of god and faith, regardless of the different forms that they have adopted throughout history, a sword between its divine authority and the ungodly. Therefore in practice, has completely relegated in the oblivion or in the wishes of good intentions, the new commandment that Christ said to bring for men, regarding which, men should love one another, just as he loved them. The cruelty and lack of charity towards the neighbor, from Catholic church, not only meant bloodshed and persecutions, since in some cases, although they have tried to discharged their faults, believing that because they did not participate directly in the execution of said atrocities, then they can be released from all responsibility and forget everything, actually what does, is to cover up with indolence and silence all that. Therefore even if they don’t assume it, they have become accomplices due to their cowardice, which ultimately transforms them into passive executioners. The aforementioned, has also implied over time, a severe spiritual suffering for many, and respect of which, the Catholic hierarchy, not only has not been able to rationally substantiate their accusations and stigmatizations, but also has been unable to publicly address with humility, any sign of redress, after committing the worst errors, horrors, and crimes mankind could ever have recorded.

Jacobsen: What seem like the prime merits of Roman Catholicism?

Sorensen: Actually it’s difficult to find merits, since in my opinion there is no empirical evidence, in a biblical or historical sense, that could support that term. Therefore, taking into consideration this premise, I think that the Catholic Church, in its beginnings, when it was formed by small religious communities, that constituted local churches, which were not centralized neither politically nor religiously, in the hierarchical power of the Vatican state, they had the intention of becoming a universal religion, and in this sense by doing so, they tried to open their boundaries towards people of other latitudes, at the same time that they seemed to integrate into their communities, women and minorities that normally were rejected at the time.

Reference

Georgetown University: Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs. (n.d.). Roman Catholic Church. Retrieved from https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/essays/roman-catholic-church.

Jacobsen, S.D. (2014, August 22). Dr. & Fr. George V. Coyne, S.J.: McDevitt Chair of Religious Philosophy, Le Moyne College. Retrieved from https://in-sightjournal.com/2014/08/22/dr-fr-george-v-coyne-s-j-mcdevitt-chair-of-religious-philosophy-le-moyne-college/.

Oakley, F.C., Cunningham, L., Knowles, M.D., Marty, M.E., Frassetto, M., Pelikan, Jaroslav, J.P., and McKenzie, J.L. (2020, May 15). Roman Catholicism. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Roman-Catholicism.

[1] The fuller introduction to the article “Roman Catholicism” states:

Roman Catholicism, Christian church that has been the decisive spiritual force in the history of Western civilization. Along with Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism, it is one of the three major branches of Christianity.

The Roman Catholic Church traces its history to Jesus Christ and the Apostles. Over the course of centuries it developed a highly sophisticated theology and an elaborate organizational structure headed by the papacy, the oldest continuing absolute monarchy in the world.

The number of Roman Catholics in the world (nearly 1.1 billion) is greater than that of nearly all other religious traditions. There are more Roman Catholics than all other Christians combined and more Roman Catholics than all Buddhists or Hindus. Although there are more Muslims than Roman Catholics, the number of Roman Catholics is greater than that of the individual traditions of Shiʿi and Sunni Islam.

These incontestable statistical and historical facts suggest that some understanding of Roman Catholicism—its history, its institutional structure, its beliefs and practices, and its place in the world—is an indispensable component of cultural literacy, regardless of how one may individually answer the ultimate questions of life and death and faith.

See Oakley et al. (2020).

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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