Friday, March 15, 2013

Good Catholics, I Need Your Help

The newspaper for which I write  has apparently decided that my response to the two Monsignors who wrote about my column on the Pope's retirement can't be printed because it would "rile people up." So they spiked it.

 A sad and sorry day for a paper that once proudly printed on the masthead of its editorial page that the purpose of a newspaper was 'print the news and raise hell'.

Read and decide for yourself. 

      It seems that my recent column about the retirement of Pope Benedict has caused a bit of a stir. While some people wrote letters and posts on the website saying that they liked it (one called it “hilarious,” others acted as if I’d spat in the baptismal font.
     One reader said it was a “disgrace.” Not just one, but two local Monsignors wrote that I was “causing pain to Catholics” and that the paper was “ridiculing and misrepresenting the Catholic Church and in particular the Holy Father.”

    Oddly enough, no one seems to want to get specific as to what it was that offended them. The bit about the Pope Emeritus not wanting to give up the red shoes because they were the only ones that didn't hurt his corns? The part about him looking forward to spending a Christmas Eve watching "Peanuts" instead of having to work?

    See, I could have taken aim at some of the very real problems the Church is having. Scandals not only about sex abuse, but about coverups and sheltering of pedophile priests by the Church hierarchy. Or an alleged 300-page report about a secret cabal of gay priests within the Vatican. Or the Chairman of the Vatican Bank being ousted after a money laundering scandal that led to Italian prosecutors seizing 23 million euros from one of their accounts last year. And so on.

    But I figured there were plenty of people who would be more than happy to bring that up, and I was right. What seemed funnier to me was the prospect of the Pope, one of the most powerful men in the world, being the first one who had to go back to being a regular Joe who had to go through the same silly bureaucracy, like exit interviews, that you and I do. I thought it amusing to think of him as a normal, but tired old fellow with sore feet who was looking forward to getting his holidays off for a change. That just seemed more goofy and absurdist to me than anything. I certainly wasn’t trying to be mean to the man, and I don’t think I was.

    But, c’est la vie. I’m aspiring to be one of those folks who, when life gives them lemons, tries to make lemonade. (Previously, I’d followed the philosophy of Calvin. No, not John Calvin. Calvin of “Calvin and Hobbes,” who said that when life gives you a lemon, you should “wing it right back and throw some lemons of your own.”) I figure, if Church leaders found the column offensive, there’s nothing I can do about it, so I might as well try and pull off a Dan Brown.

    You remember Dan Brown, author of “The DaVinci Code,” who outraged the Church with his potboiler novel about a secret society protecting the descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Unlike many of my colleagues in the writing game who found the prose wretched, I found the book rather entertaining, largely due to its sheer absurdity. I mean, really, how can you not love a book that has a killer albino monk as one of its chief villains? That’s some grade–A level pulp fiction right there.

    The Church, however, was as unamused as the good Monsignors. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called it “morally offensive.” The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith slammed the book as being “full of calumnies, offenses, and historical and theological errors." And, as I wrote about back in 2006, an entire sub-genre sprung up of "books and videos refuting the Da Vinci Code."

    None of this, however, stopped Mr. Brown from becoming one of the bestselling authors of all time, making millions, and having his book turned into a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks. In fact, some folks credit the controversy with actually helping the book become such a raging success, with people lining up to buy the thing to find out what all the fuss was about. So, if I’m going to offend despite my benign intentions, I want to at least make a few shekels off it.

    With all due respect to the Very Reverend Monsignors, however, I’m going to need a little more firepower directed against me if I’m going to reap the Dan Brown level of filthy lucre. I’m going to need a Bishop mad at me at least. A Cardinal would be ideal, now that the whole Conclave thing is done with.

    And so, good readers, I need your help. If you know anybody up the clerical food chain, send them a copy of the column. Let them know how upset you are.

Let’s get this controversy rolling. I’m not getting any younger. 


Dana King said...

I have always considered you columns to be tongue-in-cheek efforts to speak truth to power, and almost always successful. For the editor to back out of this one is timid, at best. It has been said never to pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. Like so many things that used to be true, maybe not so much anymore.

As you noted, you did them a favor with the topic and tone of that article. The Catholic Church has a lot to answer for. Those Monsignors might better have spent their time expressing their indignation where it is truly needed.

keenanls said...

I wish the Very Reverand Monsignors were as concerned about the following:
For 25 years the retired Pope was the right-hand man to the Office of the Pope and had all sexual abuse allegations funneled to his office and only to him and did nothing; Prior to that in 1866 it was told to all church hierarchy that all sexual abuse allegation reports were to be sent to the Vatican (mind you since 1866); Nothing was done for any of the victims and, in fact, their first concern was always the priest who was the abuser; the Vatican wanted to say this was just an American problem and eventually wanted to blame the Bishops for not cleaning up the abuse problem (now this same issue has been appearing overseas in Europe among other countries) and it could go on and on. The Right Reverands need to grow a sense of humor and focus on real problems instead of an article which chronicled a supposed exit interview between one of the most powerful men who now is not. By the way, I am a Catholic - born and raised. Methinks the Monsignors protest too much.

Karen in Ohio said...

Cradle Catholic here, although I have not practiced active Catholicism, ie, Mass and the sacraments, since 1970. However, I still have reverence for the institution, if not for the wealth-hogging political body that runs it.

I found your column no more insulting or derogatory or disrespectful than any normal news item about the Church and its doings. In fact, it was almost a sweet little tribute to the Pope. No idea what the heck the fuss is about, except that some priests need to have a sense of humor implant, and maybe a butt stick removal.

One note: priests--and the Pope is still just that, at bottom--never really retire. They are still required to say Mass on Sundays and holydays.

Pau Amma said...

Not a Catholic, good, bad, or inbetween, but maybe would help?

JD Rhoades said...

Pau Amma: that is HILARIOUS.

Anonymous said...

I became a Catholic for a while after I left home.

I'm feeling much better now.