I am sick and tired of being subjected to reports about what a great man the Pope was. There seems to be an unspoken consensus of opinion in the press which I find troubling and, above all, boring. Oh, he touched the lives of so many! Oh, he rejuvenated Catholicism! Oh, he played such a big role in ending the cold war! Really? Well, it took his death to bring that point up because I have never, not once, read an account of the collapse of the Communist regimes in Europe that mentions the Pope playing a part of much significance. Perhaps that’s the liberal, atheist bias of academia at work. Maybe. Perhaps it’s, you know, the truth?
Whatever. This endless stream of piffle about his papal magnificence is really irritating me now, so I think it’s time to raise a couple of crucial points and stake some sort of claim for rationality before the whole world is swept away by this deluge of phoney grief. This is even more tedious than the guff we had to put up with when Princess Diana died in 1997.
We’ll overlook the obvious historical crimes of the Catholic Church like the Inquisition, Galileo, Pope Pius IX’s Syllabus Of Errors (which posited in the mid-19th century that liberalism, free speech and democracy were “evil”), and a certain, shall we say, relaxed attitude to Fascism in the 1930s and instead focus on two more recent phenomena.
- The contemporary Catholic Church continues to forbid contraception and, of course, abortion. Given that most Catholics now live outside of Europe, this stance exacerbates the cycle of poverty in the Third World. “Tough shit” say the Vatican. “If you want to have sex, then you have to create more unwanted children that you can’t possibly support. HIV/AIDS rampant on your continent? Tough shit again. Contraception is a sin. We’d rather the disease was spread around even more than ever tolerate any man placing spermicide coated latex on his penis. In fact, just to be sure, we’ll spread propaganda saying that condoms are, in fact, useless at preventing the spread of HIV.” Oh yes, this is the church’s “commitment to life” at work.
- In fact, the late Pope went as far to say that anyone who uses contraception is “wicked”. As are homosexuals, of course. Funny then, that this intolerance of “deviants” does not extend to child abusers, isn’t it? There were numerous allegations of systematic child abuse and molestation on John Paul’s watch. What did he do about it? Fuck all. Did he instigate a purge of those accused? No, he did what the church does best of all – he swept the whole issue under the carpet. Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, facing allegations of a child-sex racket in his diocese, was given a back room job at the Vatican to avoid taking the stand.
So let’s just keep these in mind the next time we have to sit through an interview with someone who travelled from Sydney or wherever to stand in line with the other million or so people. This great man, this ex-Pope, that they have queued for so long to see in state, personally oversaw a Church that allows people in undeveloped nations to literally die of ignorance. He also supported and promoted priests accused of raping children.
Now why are these facts not being mentioned in the obituaries and retrospectives?