21 February, 2008

First off, let me say that I had planned to write this months ago.  I am writing this now  (in part) because of the rant Poodles posted over at Atheist Rants.  She wrote about the financial difficulties of family members and the lack of support from the church.  The reason (in part) I am writing this now is because it was not an easy essay to write.  Why was it not easy? because I, too, am a hypocrite.

How am I a hypocrite?  Well, I don’t have much of a problem with my son (17) dating.  I have a big problem with my daughter (15) dating (when she was six, I had her sign a contract promising she wouldn’t date until she was 31 (for the record, she can now date (with full chaperonage (is that a word?) by my wife or me))).  That is hypocritical.  I tell my children to keep life simple, yet mine has gotten so confused (at times) as to drive me to medication.  I am not alone in this hypocrisy.  My sister railed against drunk drivers, yet she (while drunk) got into a Jeep with a drunk driver.  She railed against people who don’t wear seatbelts, yet when the drunk rolled the Jeep, she was thrown from the vehicle because she wasn’t.  I know of no people  who are not, to some extent, hypocrites.  We all say one thing and (on occasion) do another.

I refer to this as (small ‘h’) hypocrisy.  Then there is (big ‘H’) Hypocrisy — the kind of Hypocrisy which damages individuals, institutions and nations.  Examples of Hypocrisy abound:  MTV lamenting the lack of modern protest songs while refusing to play the ones out there; George W. Bush asking for unity while single-mindedly pursuing a policy of fragmentation.  These are examples of Hypocrisy.

And then there is religious Hypocrisy.

Some years ago, my wife co-owned a residential cleaning business.  Her partner was a local (definition of a local in the Lackawanna and Wyoming Valleys:  when two meet, the find out HOW they are related, not IF they are related) and came from a very Catholic family.

My wife’s partner’s sister (for simplicities sake I will call her Carol (not her real name)) Carol had ‘gotten into trouble’ and been, well, not forced to marry her daughter’s father, but it was ‘strongly suggested’ that she do so.  Their marriage was an odd one, but they were able to buy a house and stay afloat.  Then her husband was diagnosed with cancer.  Because of the lack of health insurance, he was diagnosed late, and basically came home to die. 

Death took about four months.  Four months when he could not work.  Four months when he wracked up hospital bills.  Carol asked for help from the state:  denied because they owned their house.  She asked for help from the church and was told (not in so many words) that they were not destitute enough.  My wife and I were able to help with food and the occasional tank of gas.  Other friends and some relatives also helped.

When Carol’s husband finally died, she asked her priest to perform the give last rites and perform the funeral and the priest said “No.”  This was the priest who had taught here catechism class.  This was the priest who had married them.  This was the priest who had baptized their daughter, taught her and performed the first Holy Communion.  Why would he say no?

Well, about a month before the cancer diagnoses, Carol had promised $10.00 per week to the church.  She had been unable to keep up the payments (her food budget while he was dieing at home as about $10.00 a week) and, because she had broken her promise to the church, the saints, the pope, Jesus and Mary, she and her husband were unfit to have a Catholic funeral.  She found another priest to perform the rites.

At about the same time this was happening (give or take a year), Saint Patrick’s Day fell during Lent.  Saint Paddy’s Day is a major celebration in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  The bars open at 6:00am.  The cities (which don’t have the money to fill the potholes) paint green lines on the streets for the parades.  Our local archbishop waived Lenten promises for that day for all Irish-Americans so the ones who gave up alcohol could drink, and they could all partake in corned beef and cabbage (or the local cheap variant, ham and cabbage (bleah!)).

So aiding a family with a dieing father is too much to ask (they could sell their house, right?).  Performing last rites and a funeral is too much to ask because she couldn’t afford the promised donations.  But lifting Lenten restrictions for a party is perfectly alright?

Hypocrisy.  Big ‘H’ Hypocrisy.  I have been told again and again that churches, organized religion, help the poor, the destitute, the widows, the children, the hungry.  I have been told that the charity of religious groups give them a waiver when it comes to the occasional lapse (sodomizing altar boys, driving children to suicide, marrying 16-year-old girls to men twice their age, love bombing a girl for 18 hours because she listens to Michael Jackson).

The Bible tells Christians to be charitable, help the poor.  How to explain this disconnect?  I’ll be honest.  I don’t know.  My gut tells me it may be bound up in the power and money structure of organized religion.   If anyone has a coherent explanation, please, let me know.

Poodles:  the scary thing is (as this story shows) even asking may not help.



  1. I agree, help may not come. It cuts into the church profits and that’s what it’s all about. That is why I don’t really have many problems with religious people, it’s the churches I have issues with. They are full of Hyprocisy and hate. They are nothing more than for profit businesses. They will rush to help people in foreign countries because that might gain them converts, but they don’t help their own.

    Your story sucks too, and is more reason to hate churches.

    I must say though I don’t think you are a hypocrite for how you feel about your teenagers, in teen years the difference between 15 and 17 for maturity is about 10 normal people years. It’s kinda like dog years. 🙂

  2. Poodls, I confess that, no matter the age, I am more comfortable with my son dating than my daughter. It has nothing to do with age. I’m just an overprotective Dad.

    And the cowboy hat, gen-x beard, large frame, occasionally picking her up while still in uniform, has many of the boys at her school frightened of me. And I don’t mind.

  3. My dad, who is a Catholic, nonetheless always had a problem with tithing and giving money to the church. He would say “They want 10%? Look… if I can’t pay my mortgage one month and I ask them for a hand, you know what they’re going to tell me? They’re going to say ‘Sorry.'”

    As for your daughter… even though I don’t have kids, I think I understand. When my brother had his first daughter it really struck me how differently I think about the dating issue regarding gender. I’m not saying it’s right, but I understand. Sometimes you can’t beat yourself up over your natural feelings. You just have to try and be fair in spite of it.

  4. Hmmmm… and what was it that protective dads were trying to do with 15-year-old girls back in the day?

    Gives them good reason to be suspicious, eh wot? 🙂

  5. As for the Church, rules and dogma are far more important than any human, unless of course the human has plenty of money and power. Any organized religion will give preference to rules over humans. In fact any organization, whether based in fantasy like a religion, or government, or business, will prefer rules over people.

    Trust no group with more than one member.

  6. Ric: I was kinda slow when it came to girls. I didn’t start dating until I was 18 (senior year of high school). And fathers had no reason to suspicious of me: I was a fine, upstanding young man with a ponytail, a 1970 VW Microbus, and a Greek fisherman’s cap — nothing suspicious.

    As for the rules, yeah, you’re right. I understand the need for rules, but every rule has defects.

    In college, one of my professors (Moriarty) always found a way to work one particular phrase in to every class he taught (by my senior year, we had a pool going as to what week he included the phrase). “Karl Marx got almost everything wrong. The only thing he got right was: History Happens Becuase of Money!”

    The more I study religion and church history, the more I realize that, yet again, he was right.

  7. Well the son/daughter hypocrisy I’d completely exhibit as well if in that situation. I see it with dogs, too. I don’t even hesitate to get a female “fixed” but I couldn’t bring myself to snip a male, which might be why I haven’t gotten a male. Many guys around here have males that haven’t been snipped and they laugh when their dogs try to mount my dog. I tend to think that applies to fathers and their sons as well. A prideful, “that’s my boy” smile forms on their faces. As for my dog, well, the last male who tried to get some ran off into the woods yelping. 😉
    I had a sifu once who told me what he taught his daughter. He said if she was going to be raped, to give in and offer a certain service first… then bite it off. I always kept my distance from her, just in case she was anywhere near as crazy as her old man.

    Your story sucks, as did the linked story. I’m fully pissed off and angry about both. Morals come from that book, huh? Yeah, ok. It’s all bullshit. Religion is like a pass to be an asshole, and it even expunges any guilt you might have about that.

  8. Philly: I don’t know if go that far as far as my son is concerned. I hope I have taught him well enough that he won’t create trouble either. My male cats are fixed (hell, so am I) so my ‘double standard’ standard (did that make sense?) seems a little different than yours. It works, though.

    Interesting read on religion there: “. . . A pass to be an asshole, and it even expunges any guilt . . . about that.” Yet religion TRIES to create guilt about natural, normal, things like sex. Christianity revels in the whole ‘man as sinner’ bit — almost a “Feel guilty for being alive” thing — yet, as you state, they don’t have to feel guilty for being asses (that’s ‘arses’ for Julia 😉 ).

  9. Thanks for the translation Billy!!

    My husband is a Catholic (remind me to write about that sometime and how we actually have almost the same outlook on life…), and he said “I’ll give you an explanation for that – the priest is an absolute cocking bastard of a human being, who’s being avaricious and petty over an amount of money that poor woman couldn’t afford to give. There is no tithing requirement in the Catholic Church and there are very few legitimate reasons entitling a priest to refuse to administer the sacrament of the sick.”

    He’d have advised a letter to the bishop or archbishop of the diocese, because if it was based on refusal to pay an amount of money it amounts to simony – taking money for the administering of rites, one of Luther’s charges against the church, which can see a priest defrocked if it’s proven.

    In terms of laws of the church, it’s one of the most serious offences a priest can commit.

  10. Talked with my wife last night about this post. She said that this family had been going to that priest for years (since before ‘Carol’ was born). The church is now closed (nothing to do with the egregious behaviour of the priest, but just a dropping number of practising Catholics in the valley (though the church refuses to court the large numbers of immigrants from Central America which could provide the populations to keep the churches in business (which could be a bad thing, from my point of view))).

    Carol (the young widow) and her daughter are still members of the Catholic Church. Hmmmm.

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