The esteem of religion

Apr 13, 2005 at 12:00 am

With the death of John Paul II still dominating much of the news, it’s time for us to weigh in. The fact that Il Papa appears in several critical pieces in this issue will be taken by some to mean that we’re anti-Catholic, which we are not. We’re not anti-anything except fools, scoundrels, pop-up ads and reality TV.

Trying to separate the story from the hype machine that panders shamelessly and desperately in American media is difficult.

If you think there aren’t more pimps than pedagogues in the mass media, consider that Laci Peterson, Terry Schiavo, Robert Blake and the cast of The Apprentice have gotten as much ink and airtime, or more, than the genocide in Sudan or the willing surrender of personal freedoms that grows by the day here in “The Home of the Free.”

During the media’s current pope-aganza, I thought back to his Detroit visit many years ago and my own reaction to it. It seemed that most of the reporters in town were assigned to the story in one way or another, and I was one of them. And I found myself, despite being well-practiced in professional detachment, starting to get caught up in the overwhelming “goodness” of it all, feeling myself drawn to this “good man” and his love for people. I got over it.

It was the hysteria of the moment, and it grew as the event did. And that, I believe, is both what drives organized religion and the seat of its true power, exercised through politics.

Look at the world’s religions and how, if their numbers are great enough, they behave and are regarded more as cold-blooded political blocs than havens of spirituality. “This is right, this is wrong,” now pass the plate, we have some big fish to fry, and not just on all-you-can-eat night in the fellowship hall.

Absolute power, even infallibility in many cases, is something two-bit politicians pray for. It certainly served the last pope well. No matter how he chose to deal with pederasty in the priesthood, his choice was virtually unassailable.

He chose the church over the children. Sexually deviant priests were shuffled from parish to parish in a vile version of the old shell game, and all the sodomy, penetration and betrayal forced on young victims was OK as long as it was hidden from view, as it always had been. One of the most evil architects of that scam, Cardinal Law, was chosen to serve in a Mass for the dead pope.

And since priests serve God and the church, odds are good that many, even most, of them didn’t use a condom when they went to work on their tender prey. The pope said those are bad. Protect yourself against AIDS, unwanted pregnancy — even from a rape — and crotch rot some other way, he spake — abstain. Apparently the pederast priests forgot that part.

There’s enough self-righteous fanaticism and temporal power politics around that the priorities of all major world religions are at least suspect. For every child-raping priest there’s an imam, a rabbi or take-your-pick who at worst promotes horrible violence in the name of their god, or at best simply looks the other way.

In the interest of disclosure, I should say that both of my sons were raised as Catholics. Both now men, one has practiced Buddhism for many years; the other left organized religion entirely. I’m a failed Presbyterian who left the church after realizing that I was coming to regard predestination as a theological loophole.

I believe in one God who’s worshipped in many ways under many names. He lives inside of me, and that’s all the church I need. I don’t think he’s political. I do think he has a rich sense of humor.

And I think he laughs at most of us.

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