06 April 2005

the pope's life (death)...

In an earlier post, I wrote about how without modern medicine neither Terri Schiavo or the pope would still be alive. Now they have both died. Ms. Schiavo is in a better place being free from her vegetative state, as is the pope. His staying alive at all cost was a prolonging of life through suffering.

Having been raised in the Catholic church the thought of "suffering" sends chills up my spine. We were always told by the nuns and priests that suffering like Jesus would reward and guarantee a place in heaven. However, the thought of being crucified is not my way of guaranteeing anything, and we were told to model Jesus' suffering. There are many stories of mystical saints who carried out what they thought were Jesus' wishes by performing "suffering," eg. self-flagellation, hair tooth clothing, and fasting.

I don't think that this is what Jesus had in mind. If my reading of the gospels (I put no credence in most epistles - especially Paul's) bears any truth, what Jesus actually talked about is that doing good works came above all else. This is what I have always believed is the major difference between Catholicism and Protestant faiths, especially the evangelicals. They put their emphasis on what they believe as being stronger than the works they do in Jesus' name. It's a major difference to me. Even though I am no longer a member of the Catholic faith, I find myself acting rather than believing to this very day.

It leads me to the real point of this entry. John Paul did not practice what he preached. He didn't always do good works. He talked and wrote things that were the antithesis of this idea. He preached intolerance and hatred in the name of his religion and Jesus.

I have tried, since hearing the news of his death, to come up with a way of saying what I have been thinking, but Father Robert Warren Cromey, Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in San Francisco, sums it up the best to me:

The dead Pope's failures speak volumes. He spoke out against consumerism and materialism and lived and dressed in magnificent splendor. No one paid any attention to him. He spoke out against homosexuals, and millions agreed with him continuing the rancorous prejudice that persists in the world against gays and lesbians. He spoke out against poverty, hunger and homelessness, yet he condemned birth control and abortion, so that the poorest people in Africa and India continue to suffer from over population. He prayed for peace but received warmly heads of state whose government's
continually killed others to exercise their will. He called for the rights of women so long as they did not want to become priests and bishops. He is called a symbol of unity in a church sliding down in numbers of clergy and fleeing, disillusioned lay people. Whatever good he stood for is diminished by the pain and suffering caused by his obdurate pronouncements.

The networks are talking about John Paul's legacy, but they are not saying anything about his failures. The interim leader of the church has already pronounced him "John Paul the Great," but he is not saying anything about his smallness and intolerance. Others are pointing out his importance in the modern world, but he took the Catholic church backward into the Dark Ages, "freeing" people from totalitarianistic governments but replacing them with a religious dictatorship.

can't help but wonder what Terri Schiavo said to him when she saw him after his death...

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