Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Yo, Benny! Stay off da freakin' lawn!

(This post was inspired by Julia, who first broached the the subject. She is saving me a space at Starbucks in hell.)

Pope Benedict has come to the US on his first official visit as head of the Catholic church. If you are a follower of Catholicism, this is either a cause for celebration, or protest, or possibly both. It is no secret that the church in Rome has been getting a major headache from its American division. It seems that American independence and rebelliousness does not always sit well with the Holy See, and Benedict has come to mend some fences. (Or, possibly slap some of the faithful upside the head.) He is visiting the most famous house in the nation, but unlike most visiting dignitaries, he will need to keep off the grass.

Oh, the most famous house in the nation? Yankee Stadium, of course. The House That Ruth Built. (And that Steinbrenner is tearing down! Bastard!) He'll be at that other white house too, but who cares about that.....Besides, the hot dogs there probably aren't as good, and more expensive, though most likely not by much these days.

One has to wonder about this guy. He is, by all accounts, as strict as they come when it comes to Catholic doctrine, (as far as this defunct Jew understands the situation.) but, when it comes to the recent failings of the church in America, (pedophile scandal, etc.) he has not seemed, or given the appearance of, acting with a strong hand in response to these horrors perpetrated by his priests. Yes, he has expressed his "profound pain" as to these events, and one would like to believe him, but, as with the rest of the Catholic church, he is a political animal and will act as such.

Popes are like baseball team owners: The cardinals come in the form of managers, coaches are the bishops, players are the priests. (We won't discuss what the batboys are.) The flock? The fans. Now, if we use Steinbrenner (Another German? Hmm......) as an example, he is a decisive kinda guy. Maybe not likable, but decisive nonetheless. He makes a decision, and that is the end of it. (Though admittedly, the hiring, firing, and re-hiring of Billy Martin was a weak moment.) He expects results, and does not suffer fools gladly. He is also vocal, publicly, about what he expects from his managers, coaches, and players. Whether you agree with this approach or not, it does get results. (Mostly)

Benedict would do well to learn from this example regarding his priests. He should be out in the forefront of this scandal and denounce those priests who have perpetrated these acts on these kids. He should strip them of their abilities, and above all, he should turn them out of their orders and let the civil authorities deal with them as needed. He should be meeting with the victims of these crimes perpetrated by those he is in charge of, and show them directly how concerned he is for their suffering. (Breaking News: Benedict DID have an impromptu meeting with abuse victims today. Bully for him. This was the right thing to do.)

Then we have comments like this, which were reported today:

"He also reminded the prelates that religion cannot only be considered a "private matter'' without any bearing on public behavior.

The pontiff questioned how Catholics could ignore church teaching on sex, exploit or ignore the poor, or adopt positions contradiciting "the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death.''

"Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted,'' he said."
(From 1010 WINS news, NYC)

Au contraire ye of the overflowing vestments. Religion is indeed a very private matter, especially when it involves civil matters. It is not the business of any religion to involve itself in matters of deep personal interest such as sex and control over one's body. Religion and faith involve matters of the spirit. He would do well to tend to his flock on these matters and leave the rest to civil authorities and individual conscience.

Perhaps, as I was not raised Catholic, I do not have as astute a view on these things as someone who was raised in that faith. Then again, at least Jews don't cut off men and women from that most basic of human needs, that being sex. I doubt you will see many celibate rabbis, even in the most orthodox of Jewish sects. It is one thing to make a personal decision to remain celibate as a personal act of faith. It is another to have it institutionalized as part of a religious order, to have it forced upon a person.

The Catholic church has lost many believers to other Christian denominations over the recent years, as well as other religions on the whole. Perhaps it is time for the church to do a little self-examination. You want to win the world Series? Sometimes, you need to change your strategy in order to get there..........

Found today: Benedict, in his speech at the Washington Nationals baseball stadium remarked that; ""Americans have always been a people of hope," he said. "Your ancestors came to this country with the experience of finding new freedom and opportunity."

Yes, but what he forgets is that they also came here to escape religious intolerance, something for which the Catholic Church does not exactly have a stellar track record.

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