Monday May 20, 2013
Mother Teresa and the Lap-dancers*Bill Annett Salem-News.com
If music be the food of love, start without me - William Shakespeare (abridged)
(DAYTONA BEACH, FLA) - Not long ago, as religious innovations are measured in time, Pope Benedict XVI shut down the “playboy-mansion monastery” in Italy where, it is reported, monks and selected celebrities including Madonna (the contemporary one, not the original) cavorted and nuns provided lap-dancing services. The reason given for the Papal closure was that the monastery depicted a lifestyle “inappropriate” for a religious organization.
I disagree with Joe Ratzinger about the playboy monastery thing. Any great institution should move with the times, and the Vatican has proven - especially under the reign of Ratzinger - that it is a modern, vibrant organization. In fact it's so vibrant that occasionally it shakes things a little too much – such as making a saint out of an ex-pope or a Mohawk feminist. And what, enfin, could be more vibrant than lap-dancing?
Anyway, getting back to the monastery, as we all should, occasionally, this new innovative concept apparently underscores the fact that modern monks, priests and nuns are moving with the times. Such a minor transformation might lead to marriage among nuns and priests, or at the very least the acceptance of “meaningful relationships.” Such enlightened shacking-up might be a cool innovation for any 21st Century religious organization.
What, after all, was the origin of celibacy in the Church?
In the Middle Ages, the only way you could get your hands on a book (before Gutenberg and the printing press), was for a monk to sit in a monastery and copy out the bloody thing for you by hand. The average monk could only do like one book – maybe two – in a lifetime. So it just didn't make sense for a monk to be able to knock off at five o'clock in order to go home to his wife. So they did away with wives.
Also, in doing away with wives, somebody came up with the idea of spread-eagling altar boys over the sacrament table. In fact, according to medieval scholars, the practice may have been the origin of the expression "pastoral outreach."
The monastery thing brings up the question of Mother Teresa – saint or slouch? Slouch, as in “she was no slouch as a nun.” But before I get to that, I wanted to mention that contemporary sophisticated or “cool” Catholics have their dialectical or conceptual problems.
Joy Behar, the popular talk show hostess, expressed this consternation recently on her show to Bill Maher: “For Catholics today – and I am one – it's a little confusing. On the one hand you have the priest thing, and on the other hand you have nuns washing the feet of the poor. What does one believe?”
Personally, I wouldn't touch that straight line for anything. But it's tough philosophical sledding for thinking Catholics. Just as thinking is tough sledding for philosophical Catholics. As an outsider, I've never heard of anybody in my acquaintance who had a nun wash their feet, but I have heard from several people about how they were hit over the head with a two-by-four wielded by a wimp in a wimple.
Joy's perhaps cool contemporary Catholic controversy is readily explained by the stance of that national lay Catholic men's organization, the president of which is a guy called Bill Donahue. (No relation to Phil.) He's cool – his explanation is that this whole centuries-old thing about serial rape and murder has been overblown, that there are admittedly a few fag priests, a few rotten apples in the barrel, but so what?
But the foot-washing nuns overture brings up the controversy over Mother Teresa, that just won't seem to go away.
Mother Teresa, nee Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, understandably at an early age sought a name change and an upgrade of her Albanian origin. She came up with Mother Teresa of Calcutta, which is quite an improvement for a girl with a funny name from Albania. Even better, she established and ran a Missionary of Charity for 45 years, ministering to the poor, sick and dying.
When she died, she was beatified by Pope John Paul II, the same guy that Ratzinger recently be-atted. Prior to that, she was internationally celebrated as a humanitarian and advocate for the poor and helpless, largely thanks to a book by Malcolm Muggeridge, a lifelong limey agnostic who saw the light as he was cramming for his finals. Muggeridge didn't believe in PR, although he certainly excelled at it.
In 1979, Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian work. And that did it, expansion-wise, because as you know the NPP is good for about a mill and a half in $US. At her death, her Missions of Charity was operating 610 missions in 123 countries, including hospices, HIV/AIDS and leprosy clinics, soup kitchens, orphanages, schools and other franchises. Almost as many branches as McDonald's. She even became friends with Princess Di.
Still, she encountered the objections of some people and groups against the proselytizing focus of her work against contraception and abortion, which alienated Big Pharma and most Democrats. Meanwhile, not being content with that, she was also criticized because she supported and believed in the spiritual goodness of poverty, which alienated most Republicans.
Despite these critics, she was honored around the world anyway.
*I'm thinking of starting a rock group in my garage known as “Mother Teresa and the Lap-dancers,” in honor of the new evolution in contemporary religious practice devoted to playboy monasteries.
Did you ever notice that all of the most innovative organizations have been started by high school kids in garages? Facebook was an exception, having been started by Mark Zuckerberg in a dingy room at Harvard. Actually, I don't have a garage, but I'm confident that my carport will do. And I've lined up a high school kid next door I can use. And anyway, it might just be a VIRTUAL band.
Reference is made to previous issues of my newsletter, in which it has been established by no less a music critic than Alex Ross that the gifted composer John Cage has demonstrated the legitimacy of structured silence, or the absence of music itself, as credible music.
If that principle is accepted – that music can exist within the absence of itself - then it's logical that in such cases, the vehicle for the presentation of music can itself have a virtual, rather than physical, existence.
So in announcing the launch, or roll-out of my band, Mother Teresa and the Lap-dancers, actual performing personnel aren't necessary, and in fact like the playboy monks, are an oxymoron. Unlike the usual morons.
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: email@example.com
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