On Monday, more than 200 clergymen of the Catholic Church gathered in the Vatican for the beginning of a two-week synod about family, including matters pertaining to marriage, divorce, homosexuality, and sex. Please note the use of the masculine, clergymen, because as everyone knows, there are no clergywomen in the Church, which is a scandal of the first order. The automatic exclusion of half the world's population from its clerical ranks should prompt all decent clergy to quit this sexist organization immediately. Of course, men of the cloth can spare themselves the agony of having to resign if only they'll advocate the ordination of women, at which point the supposedly liberal Pope Francis will excommunicate them.
If the thought of a couple of hundred celibate men discussing the morality of sex strikes you as humorous, you've already been vindicated. In a headline befitting The Onion, the Irish Examiner has reported, "Couple relate the joys of sex to Pope and his prelates." Indeed, it noted, "The audience of celibate men was a bit taken aback" by the message from a couple married for 55 years. Said one "sheepish" British cardinal, "That’s not what we bishops talk about mostly, quite honestly."
And why would they? These men have not a clue in the world about sex, save for any who may have engaged in it with children. (This is not meant to evoke shock, but is simply an acknowledgment of what is too common in an institution led by the supposed Vicar of Christ.)
If you've ever listened to a Catholic clergyman pontificate about sex and related topics, you went, for all intents and purposes, back in time no fewer than 50 years. In its purest form, Catholicism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may using contraception. That the Church remains steadfastly anti-birth control in 2014 is a clear testament to the deep-seated collective misogyny and general sexual neuroticism of the organization as a whole. Birth control is a central component of the empowerment of women, which has terrified the Catholic Church since the beginning of its odious existence.
The upside is that the Church's own members fundamentally ignore its antiquated preachments en masse. In February, the Vatican revealed it had found that most Catholics actually reject the Church's teachings on sex. Other surveys have confirmed as much. One global poll showed that most Catholics support same-sex marriage, and another found that most Catholics actually support contraception and abortion.
This is what makes this synod an exercise in farce. It would be one thing if the Church were fighting modernity with its army of laypeople, but this is not the case. Not only does the laity not fight with the Church, it has eagerly joined the enemy. Yet the Vatican continues to channel Lord Cardigan's Light Brigade by thrusting headlong into the artillery fire of time.
Social liberals bear some responsibility for the Vatican's obstinacy. Faced with a socially regressive institution, they cannot help but be impressed by superficial displays of outreach, confusing them with reform or progress. (There is, of course, an element of Stockholm Syndrome in this.) But even if this synod and the next one in 2015 yield changes in Vatican policy on the aforementioned issues, it's guaranteed to be too little and too late.
Undoubtedly, the men huddling in the Vatican right now think they're doing important work, but in truth they're engaged in a discussion that their supposed followers have already had.