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Monday, June 22, 2020

The Pope Francis Reading Game.

I'll have more about my "faith journey" (to use the saccharine phrase) of the past several years in a later post.

On a related note, the titular head of our "faith community" (sorry for the rhetorical carcinogens this fine Monday morning) doesn't bother me much these days. Probably because his role in the spiritual life of my family is virtually zero. His name appears in Latin or English at the masses we attend...and that's it. 

My Much Better Half points out how he has vanished from the Catholic catalogs we receive in the mail--and, indeed he has. The customers seem to be voting with their orders--or lack thereof.

But anyway, he continues to insist upon himself in various public statements, because of course he does. It's what humble people do.

Every pope is, by nature of his office, a spiritual leader and a politician. The latter by virtue of the fragment of the Papal States he literally rules, but also because being the head of a far-flung flock appearing in every nation around the globe forces political considerations into the daily calculus of the Successor of Peter.

Alas, our current pontiff has reversed the priority of his two roles.

The reality is, he's not a very good politician, unless you think being a cheap-shotting demagogue who torches the same strawmen over and over makes you a good politician.

Which, if you live in America, maybe you do. Wheat is the only crop we produce more of. But that, too, is for another post.

The reality is that in virtually all of his political statements, internal and external, he's a rhetorical bully. He picks safe targets and unloads on them, to the acclaim of the faction he leads. Rigidity, bat christians, the rabbit mother, seminarians who think tradition has value are mentally ill, tanning the hide of a Catholic who introduced him to a convert--weak targets all, none of whom can strike back or safe ones who can but won't. 

Classic bully. And, naturally, this is enabled by the applause of so-called fellow Catholics and non-Catholics who both enjoy watching people they dislike be smacked around.

But he won't clear his throat for actual persecuted Christians--Pakistan, Hong Kong, China--because every bully recognizes a stronger one.

Anyway, Don McClarey points out the pontiff's latest safe target: priests who objected to church closures because of coronavirus.

Stunning. And brave. 

And sure to garner applause--because it did. Note the tittering of the New York Daily News

Never mind that he reversed his own church closure order following an objection by a cardinal who kept his open. Self-awareness is not one of his strengths.

Forget it, Jake--it's Rome.

Now, I happen to think that church closures weren't a bad idea--so long as baptism and confession were still available. The evidence seems to point to the virus thriving in enclosed spaces with lots of people emitting aerosols. But note that I am exceptionally hostile to keeping churches closed when services in smaller spaces and with personal contact are allowed to open: restaurants, salons, gyms, to name but three.

Not that the pontiff cares about such disparate treatment--because of course he doesn't.

For whatever reason, his shtick no longer throws me off like it used to. But I understand why it still bothers other people.

So let me help by offering a fun rhetorical exercise.

In every story where the pontiff rhetorically slaps a weak target, insert the following phrase before or after his name: 

"Ever the petulant man-child."

For example, the NY Daily News report linked above now reads as follows:
On Saturday, while meeting with Italian doctors and nurses of the northern Italian province of Lombardy to offer personal thanks for selflessly risking their lives to assist coronavirus patients, Pope Francis, ever the petulant man-child, also worked in a subtle dig at conservative priests griping about shuttered churches amid the outbreak, reported The Associated Press.
Try it--it will help your blood pressure. Frankly (no pun intended), you need to laugh at his exhausted act. And what's the worst that can happen?

Some fanboi/girl snarls at you with the classic pinched look on his/her face? Sure, that's likely. But so what? Their act has earned a chuckle, too.


Be reasonably civil. Ire alloyed with reason is fine. But slagging the host gets you the banhammer.