My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
During the same-sex marriage court case and at public hearings preceding the adoption of the Civil Union Act, the South African Catholic Church was one of the groups that vehemently opposed the extension of full marriage rights to same-sex couples. The Church in effect argued that the law should not recognise the equal dignity of gay men and lesbians as we are sinners who, if we act on our emotional and sexual desire, are nothing more than perverts.
Now the Pope, the very head of the Catholic Church, has been directly implicated in mishandling the case of a paedophile priest in his former archdiocese of Munich. According to the New York Times, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was copied in on a memo from his deputy in which the priest was transferred to parish duties in Bavaria that brought him into contact with children. As a result of that decision by the then vicar-general, Father Gerhard Gruber, the priest was able to continue abusing boys, for which he was later tried and convicted.
One suspect the authority of the Catholic Church to confidently condemn others who have not abused or exploited anyone but have merely decided to stop living a lie and to follow their hearts, have been fatally compromised. As is often the case, Zapiro captures the hypocrisy of the Pope in a stark visual image.
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