That headline isn’t mine — it’s courtesy of Stephen Colbert, the Comedy Central host of The Colbert Report, and a practicing Catholic. His word for Ratzinger/Benedict’s resignation: “popectomy.”
I find myself in the same bind as Colbert. It seems like I should have all sorts of incredibly pertinent things to say about Ratzi’s helicoptering off into the twilight, but the papacy has become so impertinent that the only real question that concerns me is this:
What happens to the nifty red shoes?
How humble? Well, since he’s said he’ll live out his remaining days “hidden from the world,” I’m assuming he means “hidden” in the same sense as the Mahdi, the messiah figure of Shiism, who disappeared into a cave twelve centuries ago and who will return at the end of days.
Of course Ratzi has to give up the red shoes. Who could hide in red shoes?
Especially since he has such a lot to hide from.
What’s really puzzling is that anyone still takes the papacy seriously. The media are hyping up the election of a new pope for obvious reasons. Men in fancy dress, an electoral race, cloaked ambition, secret balloting, colored smoke — it all makes for good theater. The fact that so many of those involved in all this are deeply corrupt gives an extra thrill to it all. Whether it’s actual pedophilia or “merely” covering it up; closet homosexuality by public homophobes; unveiled misogyny displayed in the inquisition of nuns; plummeting numbers of priests unable to marry a woman, let alone a man; and now, a secret report on a sex and blackmail scandal within the Vatican walls — how could the media resist such a totally sick soap opera?
What we’re seeing is a huge fundamentalist institution deep into the process of self-destruction. It’s imploding right in front of us. The weasel has definitely popped, and the infallible is about as fallible as it can get.
If the Roman Catholic church doesn’t undergo thorough reform, right now, predicts the famed Swiss theologian Hans Kung, it will “fall into a new ice age and run the danger of shrinking into an increasingly irrelevant sect.” He cites a recent poll in Germany showing that 85% of Catholics support marriage for priests, and 75% support ordination of women.
Religious historian Garry Wills’ new book Why Priests? – A Failed Tradition goes further and advocates abolishing the priesthood altogether. Not only did Christianity begin without a priesthood, he points out, but it actively opposed it. And rank-and-file priests are speaking up too, like Tony Flannery in Dublin, suspended by the Vatican for refusing to adhere to church orthodoxy on contraception and homosexuality, or Roy Bourgeois in the US, who was excommunicated for supporting the ordination of women.
But all this is far too pertinent. So let’s take refuge in the impertinent and get back to the issue at hand: what’ll happen to those hand-made red shoes? Will they be bronzed like baby booties? Will they be displayed in an air-conditioned glass relics case? Will they be auctioned off on eBay?
Fundamentalists of all religious stripes, take note: this is how imposed orthodoxy ends — not with a bang, but with a red-bootied whimper.