As an Anti-Theist, I tend to get involved in a lot of religious debates. The topics can vary (e.g. morality in religion, creationism and that gay people go to hell), but sometimes they lead to passionate discussions. I say sometimes because there are times when it can be agonizing or someone flips out . My general view of religion is similar to how I view the Academy Awards. Both have commanding institutions that are severely out of touch with the public; they both refuse to modernize, they’re filthy rich and they sometimes promote ideas and make decisions that are archaic and can be damaging. Seriously, how the HELL does Leonardo Di Caprio not have an Oscar?!?!?!?!?!?!?
Now, we have a new Pope. This decision doesn’t have any personal bearing upon me because I’m an unbeliever (REPENT!). However, there are many around the world for which the election by conclave of Pope Francis I (PF1 – I’m hoping this catches on) is incredibly important. I don’t imagine that he was everyone’s first choice, and that some might actually be dissatisfied with the choice (like your favorite actor/film not winning the award!) . I’m interested in the Pope for a different reason.
I wonder what Jesus would think of those sickening Prada shoes.
If you follow the news, the Catholic church has been involved in a shit-storm of late (note: don’t leave your kids alone!). Moreover, it is an institution that is fighting a tide of changing sentiment towards gay rights, contraception, marriage, sex and human rights in many countries. The ridiculous wealth of the Vatican has also been called into question. If you ask me, I don’t think any follower of Christ is meant to live so lavishly in servitude of the people because it goes against everything that Jesus is meant to represent.
I don’t mean to rail against the Catholic church or single it out. I believe that all religions are inherently flawed, mostly due to the dissemination of scientifically true factual knowledge, placing fallible humans with agendas on a pedestal and the passage of time rewriting our view of the world and the people that inhabit it. One could argue that religions give us morality and other fluffy comforts, but I doubt that we would all become raving murderers and rapists if glorified books didn’t tell us otherwise. But I’m starting to digress and that’s a spiel for another day.
PR Makes The Man
Returning to the Pope in question. I’m truly interested in him because I want to see how he will go about addressing the issues I outlined above. Let’s face it, any other organization in the world that was beset with such scandal would have drowned. It certainly won’t be easy to contend with a mob like the Vatican City, but there are people who wish to see him become a true reformative leader. Sadly, this Pope already has a history that is being called into question. I don’t believe that an individual’s past is enough to condemn them. Opinions and people can change.
By most accounts he is a humble, pious (scandalous?!?!?), and joyous man. That’s just good PR, and I for one think that he is merely an elaborate distraction and a transitional leader. That’s the strength of good PR; it can misalign our expectations and reality. This isn’t any less true for PF1 (copyrighted!), and as The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/15/pope-francis-joy-humility-unbending) and the Richard Dawkins Foundation have pointed out, he has a questionable past worth debating. Where he takes himself and the church from here will be interesting to witness.
Here is the piece from Richard Dawkins:
“This a photo of The Mothers of the Disappeared. About 11,000 died in Argentina under the dictatorship. Read “The New Pope and Staying Close to Religious Life” by Sean Faircloth, Dir. of Strategy & Policy
“He weathered a difficult and dangerous 1970s, when Argentina was ruled by the military, by keeping close to religious life and philosophy and away from the activism that got many fellow clerics into fatal trouble.”
Read the above quote about the new Pope from Time magazine carefully. “He weathered a difficult and dangerous 1970s”. He kept “close to religious life and philosophy and away from the activism”. I will return to this, but the 1970s was an era when those opposing dictators in Argentina were thrown from airplanes to their death.
Today, we are told, the new Pope will reach out to the poor. He is humble, they say. Good. That’s commendable, and he has indeed been widely praised for this. But let us consider what Time Magazine does not say.
I quoted on the Dawkins Foundation Facebook page, within hours if his ascension, the fact that the new Pope, calls marriage equality an idea from “The Father of Lies.” My first thought was that Nixon has been dead almost twenty years, but, no, this is a colorful reference to the colorful fictitious character known as Satan.
Satan? Gay marriage? The new Pope is passionate in his revulsion at gay people being married and his, apparently literal, association of this rather mundane concept with Hades. Really? This is where he is passionate? This is where he takes his big moral stand? But with Time magazine, and many other journalists report on the new Pope, it is as if it is somehow impolite to discuss this powerful man’s stand on, oh, issues. How indelicate of me!
Instead of directly quoting the Pope on this, Time Magazine, – many paragraphs into their profile – states “Bergoglio will not stray from the conservative doctrines of the rest of the Vatican.” Time further states that he clashed with Argentina’s president on gay marriage. Yes, calling gay marriage as coming from Satan would, yes, be a clash.
So many journalists want to muffle Bergoglio’s publicly stated views, soften them on his behalf, like some publicity agent. “Here, Pope, didn’t you mean to phrase it this more gentle way?”
Back to the 1970s: the Pope was not a child in those years. (I thought it was unfair when Pope Benedict was attacked for being in the Hitler Youth). Bergoglio was in a position of power in a very Catholic nation, the leader of the Jesuits in his country. Some accuse Bergoglio of allowing two priests, who openly opposed the dictatorship, to be kidnapped. The evidence is unclear and Bergoglio says this is slander.
But what is very clear is that there were many people, priests included, who risked their lives to stand against the bloodthirsty dictators. Think of 11,000 people disappeared in Argentina, a nation with a vastly smaller population than the United States. The Argentine Mothers of the Disappeared marched for years to protest the abduction of their children and grandchildren. Children of leftists were stolen from their parents and placed in right wing families. This is the era during which, as Time Magazine so gently put it, Bergoglio weathered “a difficult and dangerous 1970s”.
As Time Magazine puts it, Bergoglio kept “close to religious life”. Indeed. He was not on the front lines. I’m not saying he needed to sacrifice his own life, but he was, the evidence is clear, not even among the vanguard that spoke out. In Brazil the Catholic leaders took a more brave stand against dictators. Bishop Oscar Romero stood up to dictators in El Salvador, and was assassinated in 1980 for his courageous stand.
Many average citizens had the courage to stand up to dictators. Dilma Rouseff, the President of Brazil today, was tortured as a young woman. Not Bergoglio. Bergoglio was staying “close to religious life”. What a fascinating phrase: “close to religious life” – meaning apparently that, when lives were a stake, when there is an opportunity to stand for justice, Bergoglio assumed a prayerful stance, the noble religious pose –- while others did the hard dangerous work of saving lives and fighting for democracy.
The Pope is now pledging to speak for the poor. Good for him. But I’m reminded of when I go to many Christian Facebook pages, filled with vague memes about glorifying Jesus. Almost never do I see anything about confronting injustice, or about standing up to the powerful. When that great moment came, Bergoglio chose the pose of piety over the action of justice. He reserved his big moral passion stand for condemning gay marriage.
Why would Time Magazine want to gloss over that truth on Bergoglio’s behalf? It is easy to fight “the devil” – because the Devil does not exist, not amid gay people or anybody else. It takes a leader of great courage to take risks in the face of a real live dictator and his blood-thirsty minions. Many did, but not this Pope. ” – Richard Dawkins Foundation (2013)