I have a bit
of a fetish.
come across a calendar where the month is wrong, at the barber,
or in a bank or a school say it's June and the one on the wall still
proclaims May I either inform them of their tardiness or get up
and rectify the situation myself, turning the page and bringing
us into the present, bang up to date. I don't know why, but it gives
me a feeling of satisfaction.
So it was with
great difficulty that I managed to suppress the urge to point out
to Father Vinander that afternoon in 1979 as I bade farewell to
him and the brothers of the Calcutta Missionaries of Charity, that
the picture of Pope Paul V1 on the wall of his office was way out
of date. Since his death there'd been another Pope John Paul the
First, who only lasted 33 days before being found dead in his bed
by a nun; and that he'd been replaced by the present incumbent,
Polish John Paul the Second, the first non-Italian pope since 1542.
the temptation to point out the picture needed changing. The deaths
and takeovers had all been very sudden and I'm sure he'd catch up
- but as I traveled back overland from India to England by bus I
had time to ponder popes and their power over people born to obey
them. Somehow, luckily, after a lifetime of fear and thrall I had
managed to free myself from the unquestioning obedience demanded
by the Church, and gradually over the years since then, looking
at it objectively, I've come to find it very questionable indeed.
the Vatican has billions of dollars
in solid gold in its coffers,
mostly stored in bullion with the
U.S. Federal Reserve Bank;
the rest in bank accounts in
London and Zurich, Switzerland.
It seems to
me now that the Roman Catholic Church, the Holy See, contradicts
the instructions of Jesus in very many instances.
Matthew, Jesus said "Call no man your father on earth", and yet
you've got these men of the church swishing around in long skirts,
all telling their 'flock' to address them as "father'.
said "No one is good but one - God." And yet the Pope is called
the 'Holy Father'--double whammy sin!
"And when ye
pray thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are for they love to stand
praying-- that they may be seen of men.
But when thou
prayest, enter into thy closet, and shut thy door, and pray to thy
Father which is in secret--" and "But when you pray, use not vain
repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be
heard for their much speaking--"
But the Church
with its elaborate Masses and chanted repetitious litanies goes
against this simple advice of the Master.
Again, he says:
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth-- but lay up for
yourselves treasures in heaven For where your treasure is, there
will your heart be also. - Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
And yet the
Vatican has billions of dollars in solid gold in its coffers, mostly
stored in bullion with the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank; the rest in
bank accounts in London and Zurich, Switzerland.
With all of
its assets added together, the Church possesses more riches in real
estate, property, stocks and shares than any other single institution,
corporation, bank, government or state, making the Pope, the official
ruler of this vast reserve, the richest man in modern history.
for people infected with AIDS
or for those who want to use condoms
to prevent AIDS," said John Paul 11 at the International Congress
Moral Theologians in Rome in 1988,
"the Church's moral doctrine
allows no exceptions."
The U.N. World
Food Summit estimates $150 billion a year could significantly eradicate
making proclamations on such "issues" such as the sanctity of marriage
and so-called family values, the pope and his church should regain
the true Christian mission of charity. Imagine the sweeping effect
to cure hunger and sickness around the world of a Church founded
on genuine goodwill, not human hypocrisy.
But it's too
late now for Pope John Paul 2, who has finally shuffled off his
mortal coil. So, while the media is at its sickening feeding-frenzy
orgy of eulogies and sycophancy, let's have a brief look of our
own at some of the ideas of the dead old billionaire and (very likely)
those of his successor on the Vatican throne.
Just a little
peek, because if we got into the whole nitty-gritty of the wherefores
of the Roman Church it could go on for screeds. So let's confine
ourselves to a subject that's close to their hearts - SEX.
they're not fond of it at all, but you know what I mean!)
with an innocent wank
Church condemns masturbation. Catholic teaching is that sexual activity
is intended for conception, thus masturbation is an immoral sexual
practice because it does not permit conception. In addition, the
Catholic Church teaches that masturbation breeds lust and selfishness,
which takes one further from God.
Pope Paul wrote:
" - masturbation is an intrinsically and seriously disordered act...the
deliberate use of the sexual faculty outside normal conjugal relations
essentially contradicts the finality of the faculty. For it lacks
the sexual relationship called for by the moral order, namely the
relationship which realizes 'the full sense of mutual self-giving
and human procreation in the context of true love.' All deliberate
exercise of sexuality must be reserved to this regular relationship."
In 1996 Pope
John Paul said that artificial birth control was ruining people's
moral sense by giving a false idea of sexual freedom. He attacked
'unbridled hedonism' which was slowly creating 'an eclipse of values'.
The Roman Catholic Church considers artificial birth control and
abortion an objectively grave or "mortal" sin (that is to say it
causes the "death" of the soul by depriving it of the life of grace,
when it is committed with full knowledge and full consent).
the particular inclination
of the homosexual person is not a sin,
it is a more or less strong
tendency ordered toward
an intrinsic moral evil...
pastoral attention should be
directed to those who have
this condition, lest they be led to
believe that the living out of this
orientation in homosexual activity
is a morally acceptable option.
It is not."
To the Vatican
Institute of Bioethics he said: "Worrisome consequences have been
produced in the sexual sphere of life by a false sense of freedom
provided by contraception, which is both an incentive and a tool."
He criticized public health campaigns that promote contraception.
"Unbridled hedonism and a disdain for life is at the heart of the
modern world's moral quandary. The 'Gospel of Life' must be maintained
by educating children to recognize their vocation as carriers of
life, in responsible collaboration with the creator."
must be considered to be definitive and irreformable. Contraception
is gravely opposed to marital chastity, it is contrary to the good
of the transmission of life (procreation aspect of marriage), and
it is contrary to the mutual giving of the spouses (union aspect
of marriage). It hurts true love and denies God's sovereign role
in the transmission of human life"
"Even for people
infected with AIDS or for those who want to use condoms to prevent
AIDS," said John Paul 11 at the International Congress of Moral
Theologians in Rome in 1988, "the Church's moral doctrine allows
the pope's spokesman for marriage and family issues, added that
if an AIDS - infected husband couldn't manage to maintain "total
abstinence" for the rest of his life, then it was better to infect
his wife than to use a condom, "because the preservation of spiritual
goods, such as the sacrament of marriage, is to be preferred to
the good of life."
a little queer
From Pope John
Paul's 1986 "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the
Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons"-
particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it
is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral
evil; thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.
Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed
to those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that
the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally
acceptable option. It is not."
#2357 (in part) Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents
homosexual acts as acts of great depravity, tradition has always
declared that "Homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered". They
are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the
gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual
complimentary. Under no circumstances can they be approved.... #2359:
Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery
that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested
friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should
gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection."
you have it
Pope John Paul
believed that it was contrary to God's law for anyone - Catholic
or otherwise - to engage in birth control, abortion, homosexuality,
in-vitro fertilization, masturbation, artificial insemination or
sterilization. Intercourse between married partners, with no barrier
to pregnancy and childbirth, was the only permissible sexual act
in his eyes.
And you go
to hell if you believe otherwise.
This was also
the man who condemned 'liberation theology' - the belief that the
church had a moral obligation to engage politically in the struggle
for economic and political justice for the poor.
The man who
declared: "The church cannot approve of this idea of Christ as a
political figure, a revolutionary."
The one who
declared that the Church "has no authority whatsoever to confer
priestly ordination on women and that all the faithful are definitively
bound by this judgment."
A man who believed
that he had been saved by the "special protection" of the Blessed
Virgin Mary when shot by a Turkish gunman in St Peter's Square.
"One hand fired," he said, "and another hand guided the bullet."
And he who
had that bullet set into the crown of Mary at the Portuguese shrine
of Our Lady of Fatima, and donated the bloodied bandage to the Polish
shrine of Our Lady of Jasna Gora.
A real Lady's
John Paul believed that it was
contrary to God's law for anyone -
Catholic or otherwise -
to engage in birth control, abortion,
homosexuality, in-vitro fertilization,
masturbation, artificial insemination
or sterilization... And you go to hell
if you believe otherwise.
long reign within the church, Pope John Paul II dominated the hierarchy,
appointing like-minded conservatives to important offices and quelled
liberal dissent - so don't hold your breath waiting for the result
when the white smoke rises. More of the same is expected.
It's over 25
years since I bade goodbye to 'Father' Vinander and the brothers
at the Missionaries of Charity's 'Institute for Sick and Dying Destitutes'
in Calcutta. I'm sure he eventually got round to updating the picture
on the wall, and that now the portrait of a healthy-looking Pope
John Paul 2 beams down.
But this time,
despite my fetish for keeping things up to date, I would that the
portrait, once removed, be not replaced by another...
Dickinson is a writer and artist who works as an English teacher
in Istanbul, Turkey. He designed the cover art for two CounterPunch
books, Serpents in the Garden and Dime's Worth of Difference, as
well as Grand Theft Pentagon, forthcoming from Common Courage Press.
He can be contacted through his website of collage pictures at http://CARNIVAL_OF_CHAOS.TRIPOD.COM