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April 01, 2005

There's a thin wafer of Catholicism left in me, I guess

Because I feel strangely compelled to comment on the death today of Karol Wojtyla. (Which may or may not have happened when I wrote this. The Vatican is denying it right now, something I anticipated in a macabre April Fool's Day joke last night.)

This is one of those situations where being older than 40 provides a bit of perspective. You youngsters have no experience with popes dying on you, whereas in the late 1970s, we had a whole string of them go on us. Paul VI died in 1978 and was replaced by John Paul I, born Albino Luciani, who died 33 days later. Then of course, in short succession, came Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Ustinovich Chernenko, who were at last succeeded by John Paul II, the first known Polish pope.

It is also the case of younger folks that their primary impression of Wojtyla is of a doddering old man who aided and abetted the sheltering of serial pedophiles, and opposed abortion, the ordination of women, and the existence of homosexuality. It may thus surprise you to find that in the first years of his papacy, Wojtyla was actually a force for good, with some sympathy for left-wing Liberation Theology Catholics. His naming as pope was a rallying point for people in Poland, who in 1978 were struggling under proxy Soviet oppression to organize a national movement centered on the Gdansk shipyard workers' Solidarnosc. They won, and their example spurred a host of similar democratic movements in Eastern Europe that culminated in a whole sector of the planet gaining a bit more freedom in 1989. It is not particularly far-fetched to say that Wojtyla's papacy helped bring down the Soviet empire.

Of course, that doesn't excuse the later silliness. In fact, it occurs to me that just as HR managers cut positions that are temporarily vacant when retrenching organizations, that this might be an opportunity to consider whether the Catholic Church actually needs to appoint a new pope. In fact, disbanding the church itself is worth considering. What more fitting tribute to this once-progressive pope than to make him the Gorbachev of the Vatican? It would free up Sundays for a fifth of the world, reduce children's regular exposure to sexual predators, and force the Opus Dei folks to come right out and admit they're a wacko cult. And imagine what we could do with all those former cathedrals on prime real estate! Just a thought.

Posted by Chris Clarke at April 1, 2005 11:31 AM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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If it gave you an excuse for writing " a thin wafer of Catholicism" this post was worth it.

Actually, I'm glad to hear your thoughts on this. "No pope" sounds good to me.

Posted by: beth at April 1, 2005 11:59 AM
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Chris, I've finally figured this post out. You're still pissed that they stopped saying mass in Latin.

And Beth, I could be wrong, but I believe the writer in question lifted (and inverted) the "thin wafer" from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. After all, what else could "thin wafer of Catholicism" mean?

As for the Pope - I didn't always agree with him, but I think his heart was generally in the right place. Let's hope that the next one spends less time on the evils of birth control and more time on our sacred duty to steward the Earth.

Posted by: tost at April 1, 2005 12:51 PM
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I too was surprised at how strangely prescient your blog comment was.

I'd like to see Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga (Archbishop of Tegucigalpa) become the new Pope. He's been active on issues of development and economics, having served as the Papal emissary to the IMF. He's somewhat influenced by the "liberation theology" movements in Latin America. Find an interview here. He sounds kind of... sane. For a possible Pope, anyway. Of course, the chances of him getting tapped for the gig are mighty slim.

Oh, and the phrase "sacrament of the stiff" has made laugh at several random intervals today. Well played.

Posted by: the_bone at April 1, 2005 11:10 PM
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You can take the girl out of the Catholic school, but you can't take the Catholic school out the the girl. I am, therefore, merely "retired."

Posted by: Roxanne at April 2, 2005 10:12 AM
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