Friday, May 14, 2010

Dear Ben

Here is a letter God wrote to B16 recently:

Dear Ben (or Joe, or whatever you like to be called now):

I know you’ve been pretty busy these last few years since you were prefect for the CDF (BTW, wasn’t a prefect some kind of military officer in the Roman empire? Just asking) and then got elected pope (BTW again, I’m still not sure where that whole trip came from, but then the Vatican is in Rome, isn’t it?), but you might just remember me anyway from back in the day when you were a seminarian and a priest. Boy, a lot of water under the bridge since then, huh? Vatican II, your little theological about-face, that business with the priest in Munich—you really didn’t know about that?—then Rome and life in the Vatican with your pal JPII. After you hit Vatican City, you got so much power in your hands I think for a while there you were scarier than Margaret Thatcher—and she was scary! I mean, just ask Chuck Curran, you kicked his ass all the way to the Southern Methodists. Now that’s power. And of course you’ve still got it; you just have to appear more pontifically indirect when you use it.

I’ll bet you’re scratching that head of gorgeous white hair (why didn’t those painters ever give me hair that colour?) right now wondering why God is writing you a letter. After all, you pray to me several times a day with those prayer books and all those wonderful phrases you quote from the thousands of books in your personal library (Geez—oops, sorry, Son—how many condoms would the cost of all those books equate to? Boggles the mind, doesn’t it? Never mind, they’re only sex-crazed Africans).

And it seems you really believe it’s me answering those prayers, reassuring you that you and your cronies in the curia are all divinely appointed (by me. Hello!) to pilot the ship and to hire a loyal crew. Hell, you’re even allowed to sail the damn ship backwards if you want to; after all, what’s apostolic succession mean if you can’t do what you damn well please? And anyway, why do they call you Holiness if it isn’t because you are, well, holy?

I guess you're wondering too why God would use such common language when He (“Ridiculous pronoun,” says that lovely woman, Karen Armstrong; now there’s a true Christian if ever there was one) probably should be speaking with a more biblical inflection. I did write the Bible, didn’t I? Well, no, actually, I didn’t. It was written mostly by a bunch of Jewish guys (just ask Karen! Haha). But that’s another story, so to speak.

Remember that fat little guy Angelo Roncalli? Peasant background. Became John XXIII. Everybody thought he was a joke till he called for Vatican II. Shocked the hell out of most Catholics, but especially those tight asses in the curia. I thought old Ottaviani was gonna have a stroke! Anyway, I like Angelo (he’s here now, with me). Speaks his mind, uses plain language, tells a good joke. His family might have been farmers there on earth, and he might have been a curial outsider, but Angelo had vision and the guy had guts. Cut through all the BS and got the show on the road. Opened all the doors and the windows and got the bishops to sweep out a lot of the dust that had been piling up since at least Pius IX. Now that’s a lot of dust. Angie wanted a modern Church for a modern time, so he wound up the little duck and got it started waddling. Too bad he got stomach cancer and died (I did not have anything to do with that!) and Montini didn’t have the guts to wind that duck all the way back up again when it started to run down. Let’s just say Angie's successor was dealing with some personal issues and leave it at that. But you and that Polish guy. Wow, you just stomped all over that duck till the poor thing couldn’t even let out even the tiniest little quack.

Anyway, back to Angelo. He’s the one actually got me writing this letter. He’s pretty upset with you and JPII for raining on his Vatican II parade (well, he actually used a different type of downpour metaphor, but he was a peasant after all; I’m cleaning it up because I know you are sensitive to that kind of thing—decorum and all that). He’s probably more ticked off with me for letting you guys go ahead and do what you did to Vatican II. I tried to explain to him again about free will, but he’s just not listening right now—you guys know all about the not listening thing. So what Angelo is saying is that he tried to catch the Church up with the modern world, but you guys have put the ship in reverse so the world’s going in one direction and the Church is going in another. Angelo says, “What’s that about anyway?”

You popes might not be rocket scientists (I mean, come on, it only took you four hundred years to figure out Galileo wasn’t a heretic), but you, for one, are a pretty smart guy. Here’s the thing: change is like running water. Nothing’s going to stop it. Nothing ever has. Now I know you are the pope and everything, but even you can’t stop it. Just look around you. Take Portugal, for instance. You go in there and you say that gay marriage is “insidious and dangerous” and you condemn abortion and divorce, and I know what else. At the same time, gay marriage and women’s rights are getting official support and sanction in more and more countries. You’re advising your loyal Catholic organizations not to be taking government money so that they can continue to discriminate against the very people those governments are trying harder and harder to protect.

I hate to tell you this, Ben, but you’re kind of out of touch with reality here. When your bishops start kicking kids out of Catholic school because their parents are gay (oops, I mean homosexual; you guys don't use the word "gay"), when your henchmen call the sex abuse crisis “petty gossip,” when you protect a serious big-time abuser because your pal liked him and he gave a lot of money to the right folks in your neighbourhood, your cred is going to take some heavy-duty hits. And as your cred goes, so does the Church’s.

You see, my big problem right now is—and here’s the reason for this letter—in all this stuff about moral absolutism and the magisterium of the Church and the value of Catholic Tradition, you kinda forgot about me. Somewhere down the line, you guys made the connection between me and the Church—and all the rules. And suddenly I got replaced by your idea of Church. Fact is, I didn’t really have anything to do with the church thing. And if you read Hans Küng (okay, I know you don’t like him but he is smart guy, might even be as smart as you) or better still, talk to him equal to equal, he’ll tell you that my Son didn’t even say all that stuff to Peter about being the rock that his church would be built on; those words were added later by Matthew`s community. So the Church as you see it doesn’t mean much to me. Don’t get me wrong: I like the idea of church—as a community bonded together in love, a community that welcomes all as my children. But Church as institution, with the catechism and so many kinds of sins you need a database program just to keep them all in order, just doesn’t do it for me.

What my Son did say is that rule #1 is “Love one another as I have loved you.” Do you remember that one? Now I think “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is pretty clever. But I don’t really buy it. For a couple of reasons, like who gets to decide what’s a sin and like can you really separate “sin” and sinner. I like Jesus’s way: keep it simple, keep it about love, and you can’t really go wrong. I mean, I like the robes and the singing and the incense and all that stuff, but you know what they say: it’s not the wrapping that counts, it’s the gift inside (okay, maybe I just made that up, but I can do that. I’m God).

Well, I’m starting to ramble here and Angelo wants to go out for a smoke, so I guess I’ll sign off. One last word: Think about that eight-year-old kid in Boston who is gonna have to change schools because his Catholic school told him he couldn’t attend since his parents are lesbians. Don’t think about the theology of it or what the catechism says. Think about the kid. And then think about love.



P.S. I love your hat.


  1. Do you believe the Pope is infallible or not?

  2. That was very interesting. Thanks for sharing. Most Catholics aren't happy about the way the 8 year old in Massachusetts is being treated. I think they are finding another Catholic school for him.


  3. Was that really you God! Gee we think alike.

  4. Great post, Ross. May I have your permission to republish it at The Progressive Catholic Voice?



  5. Hi Michael:

    Thanks. I would be honoured if you republished it. I don't think the pictures are "legal" though.