Saturday, December 26, 2009

Different mental illnesses from your neighbors

Two nights ago, when that young woman knocked the pope down just before Christmas Eve mass at the Vatican, I got an e-mail from a friend which read:
The woman who pushed the pope down has been declared "mentally disturbed" on the PBS newscast tonight. Is it possible that she was merely tired to death of that awful dress he always wears on these occasions?
I wrote back:
The dress, yes. White after Labor Day. The shame.

But never mind the dress. This is a guy who believes there is a man who lives in the sky who came down and took a man's body and was born to a virgin. And walked on water. And came back to life after he died. And this guy also believes this man in the sky has given him the authority to decide who goes to happy happy joy joy land when he dies and who doesn't.

And they call her mentally disturbed?

That was originally a private exchange between two gay men who share the view that the Catholic Church is a predator organization which spends massive amounts of time and money and moral energy removing the rights of gay men and women around the world. We joke about the pope to relieve the tension so the anger and resentment doesn't get the best of us.

I stepped on the toes with this remark of a couple Catholic friends, who wrote to complain.

My first instinct was to apologize, but I value these friendships too much to be insincere. I can only hope they will understand and cut me some slack.

I think it's bad enough the bishop of Rome and his hand-picked curia need to insult all things bright and beautiful by turning love into sin and desire into shame. That, we could ignore. But recently they went further and took steps to remove civil rights of American citizens, including many who do not share their peculiar take on the human condition. It bugs me no end they think they should be able to do this with impunity.

OK, maybe "predator" is too harsh. How about "bully."

It is Archbishop Niederauer of San Francisco and his Mormon buddies I should be aiming at, but Niederauer takes his orders from the man in the dress knocked down by the woman in the red hoodie, and I was struck by all that was left out as the story hit the news sites. Their slant was that the woman was mentally disturbed and the pope was a heroic figure for getting up off the floor. No mention of his delusions. Only hers. I was reminded of the definition of insane as "having different mental illnesses from your neighbors."

His Holiness has the power to inflict damage; Susanna Maiolo's power is limited to knocking old men down. She'll get medical attention (and a facebook page, of course). He'll get a free pass and go on to business as usual, making saints out of Hitler's collaborators and scraping the last of the reforms of Vatican II off his red shoes.

It isn't 1618 any more and we're not in Prague. We no longer throw Catholics out of windows onto piles of manure. We Non-Catholics live alongside Catholics in pretty good harmony most of the time.

But believing you have the right to declare you're the sole executor of the estate of a guy who walked on water and brought the dead back to life, and that this guy wants you to sabotage the condom industry and oversee the verification of bona fide miracles of candidates for sainthood, and wear white dresses in December, well...

I think that's just nuts.

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