Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Cultural studies versus John Paul II 

With the exception of the latest "Good news from Afghanistan" (scroll down), not surprisingly it has been a Pope-centered last few days here at Chrenkoff. I was honestly not planning to comment much more, but this piece has caught my attention while looking through Memeorandum.

Once in a while, something truly idiotic and ignorant gets written up by a professor of cultural studies from some obscure university, and the chances are it will be published in the "Guardian." "The Pope has blood on his hands" by Terry Eagleton (professor of cultural theory at Manchester University - albeit previously of Oxford) is the real McCoy.

The column has got everything. There is the tragi-comic opening:
"John Paul II became Pope in 1978, just as the emancipatory 60s were declining into the long political night of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher."
As Oscar Wilde wrote about Little Nell's death on the pages of Dickens, only somebody with a heart of stone would fail to laugh.

There is the breath-taking moral equivalence:
"As a prelate from Poland, Wojtyla hailed from what was probably the most reactionary national outpost of the Catholic church, full of maudlin Mary-worship, nationalist fervour and ferocious anti-communism. Years of dealing with the Polish communists had turned him and his fellow Polish bishops into consummate political operators. In fact, it turned the Polish church into a set-up that was, at times, not easy to distinguish from the Stalinist bureaucracy. Both institutions were closed, dogmatic, censorious and hierarchical, awash with myth and personality cults. It was just that, like many alter egos, they also happened to be deadly enemies, locked in lethal combat over the soul of the Polish people."
Except that one is responsible for the murder of tens of millions of people, and the other one fought for independence, freedom and human dignity. Aside from that, a perfect match.

There is equally breath-taking historical ignorance:
"The conservative wing of the Vatican, which had detested the [Second] Vatican Council from the outset and done its utmost to derail it, thus looked to the Poles for salvation. When the throne of Peter fell empty, the conservatives managed to swallow their aversion to a non-Italian pontiff and elected one for the first time since 1522."
John Paul II has actually been one of the leading lights of Vatican II, so to sustain his case about the bigoted Polish authoritarian who rolled back the liberalisation of Catholicism, Eagleton has to create a bizarre straw-monsignor parody of the post-conciliar Church, a some sort of an orgy of lesbian nuns doing a conga line with bearded liberal German theologians during an ecumenical Wiccan contraception workshop at a liberation theology conference. "The Catholic church had lived through its own brand of flower power in the 60s, known as the Second Vatican Council; and the time was now ripe to rein in leftist monks, clap-happy nuns and Latin American Catholic Marxists." Hey, that's not my joke, that's a quote from Eagleton who confuses an experimental parish in Astbury Heights with the reality of the global Catholic Church during the 1960s and 70s.

Lastly, there is the inevitable appearance of "the Pope is guilty of genocide" meme I wrote about yesterday:
"The greatest crime of his papacy, however, was neither his part in this [child sex abuse] cover up nor his neanderthal attitude to women. It was the grotesque irony by which the Vatican condemned - as a 'culture of death' - condoms, which might have saved countless Catholics in the developing world from an agonising Aids death. The Pope goes to his eternal reward with those deaths on his hands. He was one of the greatest disasters for the Christian church since Charles Darwin."
Several of my readers commented on the logical fallacy of assuming that people throughout the developing world who fornicate and commit adultery in disregard of the teachings of the Pope (not to mention Jesus himself), refuse to use condoms because the Pope tells them not to. Enough said.

As Eagleton, himself a much-lapsed son of Rome had once told an interviewer, "you never entirely leave Catholicism behind" - or sadly in his case, alone.


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