Wednesday, March 18, 2009

And how many angels can dance on that pin head?

I've long had trepidations about Pope Benedict XVI. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he headed up the office of the Inquisition, although it's now known by the more innocuous title "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith." After Pope John Paul II's death, it was widely viewed that Ratzinger aggressively campaigned for the papacy, and in all honesty, that's the way it looked to me--particularly in light of his ubiquitous media presence in the weeks following JPII's funeral.

The thing is, a Grand Inquisitor does not a good pope make. Cardinal Ratzinger, an arch conservative, enforced dogma through his office with a dictatorial finality. He made decrees rather than engage in discussion. And unfortunately, he's carried that management style with him to the Holy See. But Pope Benedict isn't simply a theological lawyer who deals in hypothetical religious legalese. He's the head of the Catholic Church, but also a head of state and an international diplomat. As Grand Inquisitor, Ratzinger could bark at clergy or laity who ran afoul of him, and those hapless folks' only recourse was toe the line. On the world stage, well, nobody is required to grovel at Pope Benedict's feet.

His hostility to the reforms of Vatican II have been obvious since Day One, and he's worked to turn back the clock throughout his papacy. In his rush to reconcile with radical breakaway sects of the church that rejected Vatican II (including the Catholic Church's disavowal of anti-Semitism and supposed Biblical justifications for it) he's rehabilitated the right-wing bishops and priests of the Society of St. Pius X. Yet Pope Benedict expresses surprise that the society contains anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying bishops? Egads, that's part of their basic statement of so-called faith! Yet he is bothered more by the fact that Catholics called him on it:
"I was saddened by the fact that even Catholics, who should know better how things work, thought it necessary to attack me with such hostility," the pope wrote

That's a longstanding favorite trick of high-handed folks who get called out for their ill-considered actions or words: Apologize for the fact that the critics are wrong. The Vatican's used this tactic quite often in the last few years. John Paul II was probably every bit as conservative as Benedict, but John Paul won over the world with his gentle manner, keen intellect and willingness to actually talk with people, whereas Benedict seems to hold anyone who doesn't agree with him in contempt.

Pope Benedict's tendency to dictate rather than discuss and gross insensitivity to views other than his own has resulted in outrage in the Muslim world and strained relations with Judiasm. Scientists aren't too happy with him either, although he's pretty popular among Creationists (you know, as much as a Godless Catholic can be).

And now Pope Benedict has decided it's best to condemn thousands, if not millions, of African women to death because it's better they die of AIDS than force their husbands to wear condoms. What boggles the mind is that the pope continues to dismiss opposition--both within and without the church--as irrelevant, and won't even consider a discussion on the issue:
On the plane, Benedict also dismissed the notion that he was facing increasing opposition and isolation within the church, particularly after an outreach to ultraconservatives that led to his lifting the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop.

"The myth of my solitude makes me laugh," the pope said, adding that he has a network of friends and aides whom he sees every day.

This strikes me as eerily similar to the bunker mentality George W. Bush established in his White House, surrounding himself with like-minded cronies who wouldn't dare question the head man's decisions. At least the Vatican doesn't have nukes. That we know of.

And once again, Pope Benedict responds to criticism by dismissing it entirely with meaningless prattle:
"You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms," he said. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."

What doesn't he get? There is a problem with promiscuity in many African nations. Men, in the time honored exhibition of machismo, go out and have extramarital affairs with women who may or may not be prostitutes. This is done, of course, sans condom because 1) the church says condoms are sinful (nevermind the fact that adultry is sinful) and 2) men just don't like condoms. Now, said wayward husband has infected himself with AIDS and comes home to his wife, who he demands his husbandly right of sexual gratification. And he gratifies himself with her, again, without the use of a condom because 1) the church says condoms are sinful (nevermind the fact that murder is sinful, as he's now effectively infected her with a death sentence) and 2) men just don't like condoms. And if we're really lucky, in Pope Benedict's candy-colored world, said congress will result in a baby born with AIDS who'll die a year or so before or after mother and father.

So, there you have it--three dead people (at minimum) who've all been saved from Satan's scourge of condoms. Naturally enough, Pope Benedict deserves no blame for this sorry state of affairs himself, because his brilliant solution is to tell all of Africa just to stop having sex. Maybe he should've aimed those big guns on the church's pedophile priest scandal. "Hey, guys! Don't do it!" Problem solved.

The truth is, 13th century sexual mores weren't any more effective in the 13th century than they are today. Just because Pope Benedict wishes it so doesn't make it true. I've never in my life been embarrassed to be Catholic, but Pope Benedict's really making it tough.

Now Playing: Johann Sebastian Bach Romantic Moments, vol. 8


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. And just what makes you think that I'd welcome anti-Catholic spew here? My issues outlined in the post above are with the current pope, not with Catholicism in general.