|The Cathedral in Madrid - only completed in 1994.|
Obviously many Christians will complain that Catholics are 'the wrong kind of Christian' and that the Roman Catholic Church does not represent the views of all the other churches. I accept that. Roman Catholicism certainly stretches the whole Christ myth and all its trappings to a point very close to the ridiculous. However, that is not to say that the other churches are free of quirks. Just for now, lets take a look at the contrasts to be found in Catholicism.
|Madrid Cathedral - beautiful decorations behind the altar.|
The glorious church pictured in this post (and visited this week) is the rather recently completed cathedral in Madrid. Like so many of the buildings in that beautiful city, it demonstrates some of the finest architectural qualities that Europe has to offer. The splendid buildings all over the centre of the city show the kind of quality that many Italian cities can only attempt to replicate. It is impossible to compare the cut stone of Madrid with the crumbling, plastered walls that attempt to hide the fact that many of the walls of the buildings in Naples are built of little more than rubble.
Few would deny that it is a magnificent building, brightly decorated in a style that suits the city well. The quality of the gold-leaf decorations can hardly be questioned. The whole building exudes a feeling of quality.
But did you notice something else? A forlorn figure, barely visible in the foreground, silhouetted against the obvious opulence?
|The Crucifixion - a forlorn figure silhouetted against opulence.|
Here we come to that great Catholic paradox, common to all the basilicas and cathedrals around the world, and probably at its worst in The Vatican itself. Somehow they have to 'sell' the contrast between obvious affluence and the abject suffering of the limp body nailed to a cross, in some kind of ritualistic, bronze-age, scape-goat death. On its own this is disgusting enough. As Christopher Hitchens said, "What ill is crucifixion a cure for?"
The Roman Catholic Church takes this concept of a good kind of suffering to an extreme, and of course for them it is the cure for something called 'original sin'. At least most protestant churches have to decency to spare their congregations from the gruesome details of crucifixion.
One other feature of Catholic churches around Europe also intrigues me.
At every door or gate you can find someone begging for money. There is never a crowd, but just enough of the professional poor to promote a good sense of moral blackmail in passers-by.
I ask myself how this tradition is 'policed'. Is it self-controlled by the people who make a profession of seeming so poor, at least in comparison to the riches of the building that they are 'guarding'? Perhaps they know that one or two of them might collect enough money, whereas too many would collect much less and have to split it between more of them. Perhaps they take it in turns. Or is is controlled by the church itself? Is there a roster? Are the people charged a license fee for use of prime real estate? I wouldn't put this past the machinations of a world-wide racket which makes a living out of the suffering of the poor. Do any of you know the answer?
I don't mean to mock the poor, but I do mean to mock the contrasts. How can the clergy fail to be embarrassed by their own church?
Small note: I haven't even touched on the other, more newsworthy, sins of The Church!