Monday, July 16, 2007

holier than thou attitude

To be clear, Pope Benny, America didn't like you even before this nonsense. Come on, dude. Of all the names, you pick Benedict? Haven't you ever read any American history? And don't you think Pius would suit you better anyway?

I feel for the Catholics. I really do. As an American, I understand what it's like to have a leader who insists that his way is the only way to salvation. I know how it feels to be labeled as defective for disagreeing with a holier than thou attitude. (Woody Guthrie wrote a great song proposing a solution which would solve our joint leadership problems: "Christ for President.")

All joking aside, I'm truly appalled by Pope Benedict's statement, by his reassertion that the Catholic church is the only true Christian church. I can't fathom how the Catholic church (it has earned that lower case 'church') can claim to simultaneously promote world peace while insisting that other churches aren't really Christian. Pope Benedict's recent statement renews my frustrations with Catholicism; it is just a type of fundamentalism. The parallels to Bush rise again: "you're with us or you're against us." In the case of Benedict's Catholicism: "We're right. You're wrong. We all love you here on Earth in the name of our shared Saviour, but good luck in the next world. We're not going to bother saving you a harp." From my perspective, that seems rather closely allied not only with Bush's philosophy, but also with the principles of the Bad Guys that the United States has declared war against.

Part of me wishes that Pope Benedict had issued his declaration while I was on the Camino. There was remarkably little discussion of Catholicism there. I expected to encounter many more individuals whose devotion to Saint James inspired them to do the pilgrimage, but I cannot think of a single person who explained that religion was the primary reason for undertaking the walk. I can't even think of many pilgrims who identified themselves as practicing Catholics.

If I had heard about Pope Benedict's ideas while I was walking, I probably would have thought more deeply about Catholicism. I joke freely about walking to Jimbo's bones to get out of purgatory, but in many ways, that Compostela is not merely a quaint tradition. It represents the dangerous--and contemporary--notion that the hierarchy of the Catholic church can choose to regulate the afterlife. That is no laughing matter. It never has been. It isn't now. The attitude that one church worships a better God in a better way than another church? That's the kind of attitude that starts wars--and sustains them for a good, long time.

What I'm trying to say here, is that I just walked 500 miles in endorsement of Benedict's hateful words. Great.

James isn't very important to me, but Martin Luther is. Luther is no saint; that's for sure. He had his own supply of dangerous religious prejudices. (Don't we all? The irony of the statement is not lost on me.) Still, maybe instead of seeking a parchment pat on the head from the Catholics, I should have turned around and walked to Wittenberg, Germany to the site of the posting of the 95 Theses, which questioned the practice of granting indulgences. Apparently, Luther's revolutionary act is still quite relevant today.

I've been looking for a use for my Compostela. And I think I've found it. At first I thought I'd frame it so that I could remember my Camino, but it's ugly and in Latin. Then I thought I might auction it off on ebay to a less virtuous individual who really needs the purgatory points. Neither of those seemed quite right, though.

Instead, I'd like to use the blank space on the back of my Compostela to write an invitation to Pope Benedict. I'll invite him to walk the Camino de Santiago. I met quite a lot of people there who strove to emulate Christ. I'm not sure if they count as Christians, but I'd like to know his informed opinion about that after he plucks himself out of the Holy See for awhile and shares a few pilgrim menus with them. I have walked a lot of steps to gain access to his heaven. I've had a good, hard look at his faith. I wonder what would happen if he had a good, hard look at his faith, too.

Lace up your boots, Benny. You're going for a walk. You're going to sleep with the bedbugs and drain the pus from your blisters. Don't even try to tell me that you're too old. You're just a hatchling out on the Camino, just another graying German.

And by the time you finish walking from Rome to Santiago, I think you'll realize that if anyone should be denied access to heaven, Pope Benedict, it's not the Protestants. It's the snorers.


Steve said...

The Church doesn't claim that other churches aren't really Christian. It says that they aren't really churches.

If they can't partake in Communion with the rest of us, then they're not really churches, they're simply Christian communities.

And if you read the actual document, you'll see that it goes to some trouble to commend the good that non-Catholic 'churches' do.

I've been looking at a lot of blog responses to this issue, and so many people simply accept what the media tells them uncritically, when normally they'd be well aware that the media sensationalises everything.

Bridget said...


I appreciate your response, particularly your commentary on the media. The problem of people blindly following whatever CNN and FOX tell them fascinates me. I assume that by "People simply accept what the media tells them uncritically," you were trying to say "You and others." That critique makes my toes curl. While it's true that I wasn't very careful with my wording, my exaggeration was a deliberate and informed choice. I did look over some of the primary texts. But I ultimately decided to examine the popular image. Why? Well, you and I are not the only ones who are aware of the power of the press to exaggerate. World leaders, like Mr. Pope himself, are also onto that power. In fact, the media's role was an implied part of my point.

Benny is entitled to his personal beliefs, and the teachings of the Catholic church are certainly likely to highlight their way as the best way. I’m glad they have the opportunity to believe those things even though they are very much at odds with my own. That’s not what I’m concerned about here.

Pope Benedict's ideas are not new. Blahblahblah Catholics are going to heaven and blahblah One True Church and blah transubstantiation. It's just a dance remix. So if the song isn’t new, why bother sending a new track to the radio?

Here’s why. Press. Benny and Paris Hilton have some things in common. Benny knew the media would broadcast his press release--or whatever fancy name the Holy See has for such a thing--and he knew that it would announce that the Pope says the rest of the world isn't going to heaven. I might be absolutely certain that my sister is going to hell, but I don't go around trumpeting it from the rooftops for emphasis. That's hardly a way to create family harmony. As an influential world leader who purportedly wants to create peace on Earth (Check his speeches, writings yourself), he should consider how his own words, his own emphasis can contribute to creating peace.