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May-15-2013 00:49printcomments

In Defense of the Pope(s)...

Pulling (and Polling) For The Pontiff.


(DAYTONA BEACH, FL) - I don't know about you, but I think it's high time somebody stood up for The See. I mean like defended the Defender of the Faith. You know what I mean, popped for the Pope? Stopped bashing Benedict. Or making military junta jokes about Francis. It's been going on for centuries, maybe millenia, if you count the Inquisition. But never as bad as in the last few years. And I'm sick of it, do you hear?

John Paul II even got whacked. Check that – actually he was one of the good guys, that rare red apple in the barrel, and as to who snuffed him is a mystery known only to a few in high places, like the Cosa Nostra. That's not what I'm talking about – I mean your run-of-the-mill Pope-knocking.

Take Ireland, as Rodney Dangerfield might say: where would the Irish be if the Roman Catholic Church hadn't offered them an alternative to being part of the British Empire? Eating English cooking, that's where. Marginally preferable to the Potato Famine, which was also brought about by the Brits stealing and exporting everything worth eating.

And where would Ireland be today if St. Patrick or whoever it was hadn't got rid of all the snakes? It would be like the Florida Everglades, only without all those alligators, Republican politicians and geckos trying to sell you car insurance.

The reason I feel such kinship for Their Holinesses is that all three of us are about the same age and we've shared so many similarities in our personal histories. Except that they are obviously closer to God, although I may be closer to Rick Scott. Listen, when I was a teenager languishing in a scout troop earning badges in needlework and bird recognition, Joe was making a name for himself in the Hitler Youth and Gorge was a lowly priest without any real contacts in rural Argentina. When I was an undergrad dozing over the Iliad and investment banking, the pre-Pontiffs were devising strategies to enable young priests to evade the villainous clutches of upwardly-mobile altar boys, or siding with military guys with political ambition. And when I was becoming a lackey of free enterprise and a slave of mercantilism, Cardinal Ratzinger was mapping a global strategy to protect the sanctity of 800 million priests in a world gone – as the Pope has said - “appallingly” - wrong. And his future successor was catapulted into the Red Hat fraternity because of his latent liberalism.

Consider the Benedictine One's recent appeal to the ingrates of Ireland: by calling it “a mystery,” the cause of the abuse over a period of decades in Catholic parishes, schools and church-run institutions and parishes in predominantly Catholic Ireland, the pontiff in a pre-recorded video message for the closing session of a week-long gathering in Dublin, did his best to shore up flagging faith, including obligatory Mass attendance.

In Boston and its environs, the Faithful killed two birds with one stone: “Mass” is recognized both as (1) the abbreviation of the State they're in and (2) the healing, sanctified rejuvenation of this coming together for an outpouring of candles, golden goblets, cheap wine and Ritz biscuits. God in his Heaven must be delirious with joy.

The Eucharistic Congress, held by the Vatican every four years in a different part of the world, enabled Dublin Archbishop Diarmiud Martin to announce that the Church in Ireland is facing a grave fight for survival. Now that's just plain sad. But the Then-Pope had a brave message:

"Your forbears in the Church in Ireland knew how to strive for holiness and constancy in their personal lives," Benedict said in his message. This was about a year ago, while he was still literate. In a reference to the Vatican's insistence on Sunday Mass attendance, Benedict said that Catholic faith "is a legacy that is surely perfected and nourished" at Mass.

Wow, is that right? As a recovering Protestant, I had no idea. I've been away from Sunday School too long.

Yet, he (Pope Joe) said, "Instead of showing them the path towards Christ, toward God, instead of bearing witness to his goodness, they (the occasional priest, the isolated rotten apple in th barrel) abused people and undermined the credibility of the church's message."

For more than a decade, (I'd say more like a Century, if not a millenium) advocates for those abused by clergy have been demanding that church leaders in Ireland and at the Vatican accept blame for protecting pedophile priests. Four state-ordered investigations have documented how tens of thousands of children from the 1940s to the 1990s suffered sexual, physical and mental abuse at the hands of priests, nuns and church staff in three Irish dioceses and in a network of workhouse-style residential schools. Definitely undermining kids' credibility as they were spreadeagled over the altar.

In Ireland, the United States and many other countries, bishops and other church leaders have been accused of systematically covering up pedophile priests, often by shuffling them from parish to parish without telling the faithful about the abuse.

While there have been demands from Irish rank-and-file Catholics, including those who suffered abuse from clergy, for accountability from church hierarchy, Il Papa's answer as to why the abuse occurred dealt with the spiritual and not the administrative level:

"How are we to explain the fact that people who regularly received the Lord's body and confessed their sins in the sacrament of Penance have offended in this way?" the Pope wondered, referring to the abusive clergy. "It remains a mystery."

I can handle that one, your Previous-Holiness. Because they are scumbags, the detritus of a scumbag tradition and 2,000 years of scumbaggery.

But there was more Vatican-bating going on. In Philadelphia, (the City of Brotherly Banging) there was the threat of a hung jury in the case of a well-hung Archbishop who allegedly took care of the boys-will-be-boys priest corps by shifting them to other parishes. And the deluded press was seen to gang up on the Archbishop, rather than the miscreants who were bad-mouthing the hard-working priests.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, the Vatican was being given a bad name for their efforts in the ultimate evangelism. Here, environmentalists and the San Carlos Apache, an American Indian tribe, have opposed the international observatory - including a Vatican Observatory telescope - now under construction atop Mount Graham – a supposedly sacred mountain - in southeast Arizona.

Jesuit Father George Coyne, Vatican Observatory director, recently reported that the Vatican had joined forces with NASA to search with the new telescope for extraterrestrial life. Coyne said that if intelligent alien life is found, the church "would be obliged to address the question of whether extraterrestrials might be brought within the fold and baptized."

That could help, in light of the declining church attendance elsewhere. So address away, Father George. Don't worry about these Al Gore fanatics and uppity Apaches. How can a mountain be sacred? That only belongs like in St. Peter's Square or the Mount of Olives.

A Vatican astronomer in Tucson later denied the NASA connection but not the goal of possibly baptizing extraterrestrials. You lose some, you gain some, I always say.

The environmental coalition opposing the observatory, which includes mainstream organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society, along with activist grass-roots groups, vows it will take University of Arizona back to court to block the move, in the hope that, without the telescope, the flagship in the project, the others will not financially succeed.

That gives you a general idea of what the tag team of Benedict and Francis have had to put up with recently. And I say we should start a counter- insurgency. Actually, a few good Catholics have already started. Bill Donahue, who heads up the largest lay Cathoic (don't you love that expression?) Men's Association in America, hasn't seen or approved of this message, but I'm sure he would, because he agrees about the bad priests being like one or two bad apples in a hogshead of pious prelates.

And mainstream good-guy Catholics, such as Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC have recently given air time to equally good-guy nuns who go about doing good on popular issues such as opposing Paul Ryan's nasty budget. They don't look like the nuns of old, in black and white dress, wimples, projecting the image we're all aware of, that is washing the feet of the poor and braining native kids with a two-by-four when they don't know their catechism. These hip contemporary nuns look more like Julie Andrews, right down to the casual loafers, the moderate hemlines and the modern-women coiffures. They (gasp!) even rebel against the Popes' strictures that they should knock off with the women's lib routine and get back to counting their rosary and knocking kids knuckles.

I don't know. I just think the Popes (incumbent and retired) need more support and less lobbing rotten fruit at the Popemobile. Which I understand is bullet-proof anyway.


Bill Annett grew up a writing brat; his father, Ross Annett, at a time when Scott Fitzgerald and P.G. Wodehouse were regular contributors, wrote the longest series of short stories in the Saturday Evening Post's history, with the sole exception of the unsinkable Tugboat Annie.

At 18, Bill's first short story was included in the anthology “Canadian Short Stories.” Alarmed, his father enrolled Bill in law school in Manitoba to ensure his going straight. For a time, it worked, although Bill did an arabesque into an English major, followed, logically, by corporation finance, investment banking and business administration at NYU and the Wharton School. He added G.I. education in the Army's CID at Fort Dix, New Jersey during the Korean altercation.

He also contributed to The American Banker and Venture in New York, INC. in Boston, the International Mining Journal in London, Hong Kong Business, Financial Times and Financial Post in Toronto.

Bill has written six books, including a page-turner on mutual funds, a send-up on the securities industry, three corporate histories and a novel, the latter no doubt inspired by his current occupation in Daytona Beach as a law-abiding beach comber.

You can write to Bill Annett at this address:



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