The Church is the direct living descendant of the Roman Empire. I mean, it's the Roman Catholic Church. When the structures of the Roman state were falling, the ruling classes sought refuge in the Catholic Church. The language of the Senate and People of Rome was the language of the educated classes of Europe for two thousand years. Two thousand years.
You'd have thought the Church had learned a lot in those years. It's an amazing thing, an institution hanging on from about 400 AD to now.
Gotta say, though, there's some pretty crappy stuff done in those 1600 years.
Our family was nominally Catholic. We stopped going to church when I was 7 or 8. Baptized but not confirmed. A father who was a rationalist and a mother who'd been in a school full of mean Quebecois nuns.
That was fine by me; I was a science fiction fan and a humanist. When I was in World History, we did an exercise where we debated the Reformation. Catholics, Protestants, and Humanists. We Humanists rocked. (The teacher stole it from us, man – three way tie my ass. (Covering his ass, more likely.))
I took a class from a Okie who'd converted to Hinduism (he was a C.O. in WW2, and was an Eastern Philosophies prof. Cool guy.) His wife was a Zen Buddhist, and she would always tell seekers to look at the faith of their birth, first.
Well, there's one big problem I have with the Church. They're all weird about sex. And the violence. Two – two big problems with the church. And the hierarchy. Three! Three big problems with the Catholic Church! (And neat red suits.)
- Weird about sex. As in, teaching kids and adults things that are horribly crippling to healthy sexuality. No birth control? But what do you expect from a system that systematically disenfranchises women? The College of Cardinals has to be one of the oldest boy's clubs – no women allowed – in the world. Frankly, the stuff about sexual abuse in the church is historically nothing, given point 2…
- The violence. The Inquisition was horrific. Muslims, Jews, witches, old women, political enemies; tortured and killed and imprisoned and ruined and stolen from. Add in the Crusades and the subjugation of South and Central America? There's waaaay too much blood spilt in the name of the Prince of Peace for me. But if the Pope says it's OK…
- The hierarchy. How many other faiths claim the status of God-King anymore? The Pope is on top of the Cardinals, who are on top of the Bishops, who are on top of the priests, who are on top of the men, who are on top of the women. This is one of the worst monkey behaviors, this piling of hierarchy, and it creates problems at the top. And this is a structure that's been going strong (they call it the Apostolic Succession) for many many years.
But what I'm really into is talking about this new pope. When it looked like JP2 was going to go – a pope I had some respect for – I was like "Anyone but Ratzinger."
Some of my Catholic friends, and some Catholics I've read have tried to say he's not all bad. But check this out.
- The reason that Ratzinger got elected is because the media was speculating he might be. The right-wing corporate propaganda media buzz got to all these old guys from backward countries who were used to being layered by legions of flappers (in the Panglossian sense) who were bowled over by a smarmy suit on a cable channel with really good production values. So this guy was put in by the same people who gave credibility to the Bush regime.
- Before he was pope, Ratzi was in charge of the Inquisition. (Oh, the defenders of the faith or something…) And he used that position to keep the homophobic agenda of the Church in place.
- And, before he was Pope Mr. Church-State was the cardinal who said that John Kerry could be refused communion because he was pro-choice. Nice manipulation of the American election. Taking orders from the Vatican?
- When he was going up the ladder in the Church hierarchy in the 60s, as Paris was rising up, the youth mobilizing, the world changing, Ratzinger was doing what, exactly? Decrying the culture of the youth and the time. Yes, he was one of those men in the halls of power as the people rose up outside, tut-tutting over their beastly excesses, plotting to regain and retain power.
- Now that he IS Pope, Ratzi's gone apeshit over the power and regalia of the office. He threw out the Papal Haberdashers – who'd been making dresses for Popes for over 400 years – because they didn't put in enough cloth of gold. He's got 1000 dollar ruby-red slippers. It's good to be king! This is the kind of conspicuous overconsumption that leads to falls like the French kings, or the robber barons of the Gilded Age. The Pope wears Prada. He is a walking shrine to Mammon.
- Then, there's the Nazi thing. The official line (the apologia?) for it was "it was a long time ago, and he was forced to, and all he did was shoot at tanks. And he was bad at it."
It might take people like Sophie and Hans Scholl of the White Rose. These were students, who in 1943, in the middle of Germany at war, wrote letters of dissent. They wrote 7 of them. The last was never distributed. They posted some surreptitiously; they sent them out in the mails. They were seen throwing them out from the tenth story of a school building. They were arrested, tried, and executed. By beheading.
They were brought together by their convictions, and their faith. Their Roman Catholic faith. They felt the message of the Nazarene was incompatible with what Germany was doing. They acted. They were one in a million.
Ratzinger did NOT take these risks. And lest we think that he didn't know people who were anti-Nazi, you need go no further than his father to find someone who resisted. We're not even talking about the kinds of actions the Scholls took. We're talking about dodging the Hitler Youth. Which plenty of people did.
Ratzinger took the line of least resistance. He saw what happened to his father, and he bowed to strength. This is the man that they made Pope.
So now, we have the Prince of Rome, the man who is the successor of the Caesars. The Caesars themselves went through some tough times, as well. And some of the Caesars stood up against the lines of least resistance, and some did not. This Caesar, this Benedict XVI, showed us how he deals with strength. He bends. This Caesar has shown us how he deals with diversity: he holds tight to the status quo. This Caesar has shown us how he deals with controlling wealth: he adorns himself with gold. This Caesar has shown us how he deals with America: he uses his power to do all he can to ensure the victory of the Right.
Forget what kind of pope he is – what kind of Caesar is he?
The College of Cardinals got scared. The Church is under attack in the US for the sexual abuse, and the coverup of same. The congregants of the richest nations pulling them in liberal directions, their third-world members are pulling them conservative. The death of John Paul 2, a man who was one in a million, left a big hole that they plugged with the choice of least resistance.
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke