Apr 14, 2008

Home POPEner

Pope Benedict XVI's trip this week to the United States will include high-profile visits to the White House, United Nations and Ground Zero. But no matter what political issues or media angles may be buzzing before take-off, the Vatican tends to stress the pastoral aspect of any papal journey. The six-day itinerary is above all stacked with church services, baseball stadium masses and Catholic institutional encounters to allow the pontiff to tend to his flock, and to the priests and bishops who do the ministering when he's back in Rome.
The American visit, however, poses an unprecedented pastoral challenge for the 80-year-old pontiff. Benedict's is the first papal trip to the United States since the priest sex abuse crisis erupted in 2001. It is a controversy that has left much of the American laity bitterly disillusioned with their Church's leadership. For many of the 67 million American Catholics, how the Pope confronts the lingering fallout from the pedophilia scandal may largely determine the success of this visit.

I once openly mocked the Pope. Right there in Vatican City.

About 30 minutes before the freshly deified German appeared to his usual Wednesday throng of worshippers in front of the Basilica, it was raining harder than a probability equation. Bold and agnostic, I cheekily commented that if this Pope really had the “ear of the Almighty”, he’d clear up the weather a little.

As the Pope-Mobile entered the gates… the rain stopped. The clouds did indeed part. And the sun came out. Benedict then spent the next hour blessing the masses… dryly… in more ways than one.

Since then, the Pope’s secret shadow police have kept me on the lam, but I confuse them by crisscrossing my movements with those of Sinead O’Connor. When all is said and done, she’s the one they really want hung on the mantle.

But there is now a small (very small, but all the same, REAL) inkling in me that I may have secured a one-room efficiency overlooking the malevolent flaming sepulchers near the City of Dis.

Ah well, that train has left damnation station already.

Anyway, I have trouble being really mad at myself for mocking the high mucky-muck of a religion that is so troubled, it seriously challenges some state penitentiaries for most number of child molesters.

A religious dogma that discourages birth control in countries where the child mortality rate is higher than Ziggy Marley at a Denver Bong Convention, is scarcely one that I can call responsible or admirable.

Sure, one bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch, girl – but you gotta raise an eyebrow to a religion that spends more time worrying about Kevin Smith films than it does worrying about say… oh, I don’t know… maybe, SCREENING THEIR PRIESTS FOR SIGNS PERVERSE SEXUALITY?

Maybe it’s like the Roach Rule in Texas; If you see one in the kitchen, there’s probably a thousand in the walls. But I’d like to think that the Pope and the majority of Catholics are good folks.

What I really wonder about is; how exactly the good Pontiff is going to “address” this baleful issue. “Mistakes were made” (??) … “Our intelligence was faulty” (???) “It was Clinton’s fault” (????)

Oh sure, it works for the GOP, but I have a feeling it won’t quite fly here.

At least they’re not simply avoiding the issue. And let’s face it the catechized masses WANT to believe there’s a simple answer to this foul situation; like turning on the AC when it gets too hot – or watering the plants a bit less. So even if he comes out here and mildly tips his mitre to the problem, it will probably calm most of his loyal followers.

Think about it, if the insidious threat of sexually deranged padres doesn’t compel you to consider another religion, what else will? Radioactive Pews? Vampire Nuns?

You gotta be impressed with the staunch blindness of the commitment, though.

And after all, it’s not like they’re holing-up in compounds and forcing underage girls to all marry the same man.

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