Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Audacity of Pope

You can be the president
I’d rather be the pope.
– Prince, "Pope"

The networks and cable news channels were out flexing their pomp muscles this week. It’s important for them to do this once in a while, especially for something planned in advance. You never know when an ex-president is going to die again and you want to be sure they have their deferential live-event chops in order.

Joseph Ratzinger made his first visit to the U.S. in his new name, costume and popemobile and the supplicant media beat a path to his door. Rather than spend their time on vastly more important but un-sexy matters like a disastrous Stupid War and a tanking economy, the nation’s news organizations spent most of this week sucking up to America’s 71 million Roman Catholics by uncritically celebrating the pageant of parades and Masses in Washington and New York.

The church took a giant step backward when it elevated the staunch conservative Ratzinger to pope status in 2005, a step the bishops apparently thought they could afford, since they were already a hundred or so steps behind the modern world. Accepting the earth revolves around the sun is one thing but – condoms? Tut, tut – we’ll have none of that. Maybe someday the church can make up a couple of those steps by recognizing the equality of women, but, let’s not go crazy out here.

In his prior position, Ratzinger cracked the whip for the church hierarchy as head of the office that, believe it or not, used to be called the Inquisition. Talk about your rich church history. As the Defender of All That is Wrong – I’m sorry, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (same difference) – Ratzinger put the hammer down on those who would try to bring the church into (at least) the 19th century on issues such as birth control and homosexuality, the result of the insane position on the use of condoms having caused untold death and disease in the third-world countries. He presided over various purges of those who would entertain notions of "liberation theology" (Jeremiah Wright, the cardinal will see you now) and helped, however temporarily, to keep the church’s sexual abuse under wraps.

The week-long media love-fest with the pope – on behalf and because of their Catholic viewer demographic – has done wonders for Ratzinger’s image. He has discussed the sex-abuse scandal early and often, even meeting with several victims in an unannounced location. Brilliant damage control strategy – who’s he got working that, Karl Rove? No word on whether he brought the church’s bulging checkbook with him – now that would be making amends. The awed anchors have found him nicer than they expected – what did they expect, that he’d swing his staff around like the explosion-loving Tim the Enchanter in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, smiting cardinal sinners left and right? Ratzinger has obviously benefitted from low expectations and the intense security detail that preserves his beatific countenance from unworthy disruption.

This is all just casual amusement for the majority of American Catholics, an increasingly shrinking and aging group (other than the booming, younger Latino sector), who attend every other Sunday or so and otherwise ignore most of the church’s ridiculous teachings. The more doctrinaire, almost evangelical Catholics – which seems to include a remarkable proportion of local right-wing bloggers and national columnists like the putrid Bob Novak [ed. -- OK, Bill Kristol is not Catholic, but still putrid]– also pick and choose from the church’s teachings, beating people over the head with the church's anti-choice position (it has been said that if men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament) and conveniently ignoring the church’s strong statements against the death penalty and the Stupid War and U.S. occupation of Iraq and in favor of economic justice for the world’s poor. Same as it ever was for those of faith, who believe what they want to believe and leave the rest.

But, for now, the right-wing commentators are treating the pope’s tour like some kind of national cathartic event, claiming the smiles of the faithful crowds and pretty pictures as some sort of rejection of satanic secularism. It’s hardly that. The pope comes and the pope goes, but $4 a gallon gas and the rest of the disastrous legacy of Junior Bush will continue. It'll take more than medival scanctimony and Latin prayers to get us out of this mess.

7 comments:

AnotherTosaVoter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AnotherTosaVoter said...

I'll try again.

The problem with your complaint about $4 a gallon gas is that I can remember people like you telling us when gas was $1 a gallon that we needed European-style taxes on gas to curb consumption.

So I tell you what. How about a post addressing how, if you were running for office or asked by a President Clinton, you'd specifically address the "problem" of $4 a gallon gasoline? Address what would certainly happen if the price went back down (i.e. higher consumption).

Granted it's your blog and you're free to tell me to take a flying leap, but frankly a solid policy statement would be more entertaining than yet more childish ranting and raving about boogeymen, boogeymen everywhere.

AnotherTosaVoter said...

I'll try again.

The problem with your complaint about $4 a gallon gas is that I can remember people like you telling us when gas was $1 a gallon that we needed European-style taxes on gas to curb consumption.

So I tell you what. How about a post addressing how, if you were running for office or asked by a President Clinton, you'd specifically address the "problem" of $4 a gallon gasoline? Address what would certainly happen if the price went back down (i.e. higher consumption).

Granted it's your blog and you're free to tell me to take a flying leap, but frankly a solid policy statement would be more entertaining than yet more childish ranting and raving about boogeymen, boogeymen everywhere.

Roland Melnick said...

Lefties oppose new and/or larger refineries at every turn.

Lefties oppose domestic exploration and drilling for/of oil.

Exploding economies in places like China and India are putting a greater burden on the very same supply Lefties fight to remain constant.

The government earns more in taxes on a gallon of gas than the oil companies do in profits. Despite this little fact, Diamond Jim Doyle says the government is entitled to confiscate more from big oil.

$4/gallon gas is Bush's legacy? Only a lawyer or a politician could make such a claim with a straight face, or are you sitting there giggling with your fingers crossed?

elrond hubbard said...

At least the Pope didn't fabricate Biblical passages like a certain Democrat Speaker of the House.

Anonymous said...

Or confuse a French science fiction author with Mormon theology ala a certain former GOP presidential candidate.

Anonymous said...

There are people in this nation that thought the Popes visit was one of the most important moments in their lives. Not fools and religious zelouts like you would have us believe, but good honest Catholics who recognize the power of the message the pope was here to deliver. I am so far from being the kind of Catholic I would like to be, but I can tell you a few importan facts. First, young people are flocking back to mass, and guess what, they are not all the young Latino sector. And Mike, even if they were, is their faith any less valuable than your own? Check out the statistics at your local archdiocese, young people are embracing the Catholic faith. Your Godless world doesnt speak to them.

$4 a gallon gas? so what? So it costs the average family an extra $10 a week to fill up the respective vehicles and another $10 a week in consumer driven increases. I think most American families are not going to have to change their lifestyles for $80 a month. Want to know what may change their life? A visit from the Pope. get your prioritis straight.