I have a bit of a fetish.
Whenever I 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brothers of the Calcutta Missionaries of Charity, that the picture of Pope Paul V1 on the wall of his office was way out of date.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another Pope John Paul the First, who only lasted 33 days before being found dead in his bed by a nun; and that he’d been replaced by the present incumbent, Polish John Paul the Second, the first non-Italian pope since 1542.
I resisted 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.
It seems to me now that the Roman Catholic Church, the Holy See, contradicts the instructions of Jesus in very many instances.
According to 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’.
Jesus also said “No one is good but one – God.” And yet the Pope is called the ‘Holy Father’–double whammy sin!
On prayer, Jesus said:
“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 n 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.
The U.N. World Food Summit estimates $150 billion a year could significantly eradicate world hunger.
Instead of 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.
(Actually, they’re not fond of it at all, but you know what I mean!)
Let’s start with an innocent wank –
The Catholic 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.”
How about a fuck?
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).
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 distain 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.”
“This teaching 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 no exceptions.”
Carlo Caffarra, 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.”
I’m feeling a little queer–
From Pope John Paul’s 1986 “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons”-
“Although 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; 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.”
Catholic Catechism: #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.”
So there 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.”
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 man…
During his long reign within the church, Pope John Paul the second dominated the hierarchy, appointing like-minded conservatives to important offices and quelling 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…
MICHAEL 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