Monday, February 14, 2005

Absorbing the Spectacle...

After what went down Thursday, I had to take a couple days off.

The apartment has always maintained a particular love, respect and solicitude for the pope's Jewish friends from Poland, but this might be a bit much -- the people around Wojtyla are showing a fluency of chutzpah like it's their native tongue. On Wednesday, I remarked to a colleague that JPII has been "Reaganesque" in the area of visual communication, giving the world a pontificate of infinitely resonant images (kneeling at Yad Vashem, the Hill of Crosses in Lithuania, kissing the ground of every new country visited, and the list could go on forever). Little did I, or any of us, know how prophetic that statement would be -- that they were about to pull the most macabre spectacle Rome has seen since Pio Nono's corpse was almost dumped in the Tiber out of their bag of tricks.

Talking around over the weekend, and expressing my surprise at the rollout (which, literally, it was), I got my share of fire and brimstone from my theocon brethren -- "He's your Holy Father, too!" as one EWTN-ite tried to lash me -- as if I was neglecting some heretofore-unknown sacred obligation to celebrate what was being framed as a Schwarzeneggeresque return. By this token, if you dare, imagine JP in the "klutch-kargo" format employed by Conan O'Brien, speaking with an exaggerated Austrian accent, saying, "And I will come back in my popemobile, take the cigar out of my mouth, and tell Sodano, 'Now you're under arrest.'" Of course, if this scenario is to be completely accurate, Sandri would be in the background reading the words, thus making the need for moving lips redundant....

And, thing is, however heart-wrenching it is to see him suffer so much and so publicly, of course I'm thrilled the Big Fella's OK -- none have had the power to inspire, electrify and elevate the masses (your humble writer included) as he, even in weakness -- yet it seems the cultists of personality, as is often the case, are missing the forest for the trees here. Of course, so is the Left, reminding us that, for every Wanderer, there is an equal and opposite Rainbow Sash. (You've gotta love The Wanderer -- they've done for old churches what Anne Geddes has for babies... and that's pretty analogous to the ideological fault line these days.)

A thought of the church that's been finely distilled in my mind through the years is that everybody who partakes in its life is but an equal drop in the bucket -- from Ed "My years of obsequious and loving service in Rome -- when I dreamed in Italian, with pesky English subtitles -- make me a BIG drop" (mhmm...) Egan to the African villagers who walk 20 miles for their weekly mass -- the moral of the story being that none of us individually, as persons, are essential to the continuity or integrity of the whole -- the power coming in the cohesion of the drops. But someone failed to communicate this, a guiding principle of the Council, to a critical mass of the Catholic world, because I'm seeing too many people who equate the cycle of this pontificate with that of civilization and, indeed, that of the church.

Does this attitude of apocalyptic doom strike anyone else as one which Karl Rove would move heaven and earth to instill into an electorate? Wait, we've been there already....

But, seriously, this is all becoming a little too political for even my tastes. I know, I know, as if the papacy isn't a political institution -- and if you believe it isn't, then I'd love to read your book about how Jesus wrote the Lateran Pacts... because my great-great-great uncle would therefore be the Christ -- My Lord and my Relative!


Speaking of too political, rumors of Ray Burke's silence are greatly exaggerated.

Proving wrong those who thought his ad blitz ended at midnight on Nov. 2, our old buddy is back, celebrating a year since his "No Communion for Kerry" announce on, of all places, Jamie Allman's show... But Jamiebomber -- surprise, surprise -- didn't have the moxie to actually ask The Question That Shook the Church. Small wonder that is (conflict of interest, anyone?)... So Burke's using his free time framing an impending "persecution" for religious pro-lifers. (Any bishops out there reading, my sympathies.)

"The media has painted the St. Louis church leader as a mean-spirited bully..." the lede reads.

Boo. Hoo. Hoo. Everyone tells me how nice Burke is one-on-one, and I believe it -- as I say, I've never had an enjoyable cigar and drink with anyone from the Left. And I respect those on all sides of the forum who really have the courage of their convictions, the true believers who aren't using issues to curry favor over the Pond and become pseudo-Sheens at home.

But don't start crying rivers over coverage; it's what happens when you use blunt authority to heighten the tension dialogue could alleviate, ostracize some of your most prominent and well-respected laity, and then accomplish the equivalent of replacing Scott McLellan with Jerry Falwell -- crazy Tinky-Winky statements and all.

If this cycle of staged triumph and self-victimhood continues in St. Louis, I fear the successor of Justin might start riding around in an illuminated Burkemobile, Legionaries with pom-poms included. And that would be macabre, indeed.

Keep the good stuff coming, boys!



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