Friday, June 01, 2012

"The butler did it" and other Vatican follies

Anyone wondering why the pope's butler secretly leaked evidence of entirely unsurprising Renaissance-style corruption in the modern Vatican need only weigh the history of authoritarian power styles such as that of Joseph Ratzinger.

Think about it: the pope is the last absolute divine-right monarch. What caused the fall of so many of his royal peers, their dynasties gone? One lost his head quite literally, another was gunned down in a basement with his family. Lots more where that came from.

Just as surely as Freud was right that suppression of desires breeds sublimation and rebellion, a tyrannical demand of absolute loyalty from one's subordinates breeds intrigue, double dealing and ultimately the collapse of any respect for authority.

This isn't new.

Dictatorship was always short-lived. The original Roman dictators were given extraordinary powers to cope with emergencies, then unceremoniously dismissed by the Senate once danger was gone.

The authoritarian boss, mafioso, president, king or pope forces his (they're usually men) subjects to obey without question no matter what, setting off tensions between individual needs or desires and social duty.

Most people end up cheating a little or a lot, depending on their power and means. Eventually everyone is part of a wide circle of dishonesty and disobedience that wrecks the social fabric.

The elected parliamentary systems of governance by laws of Britain and North America have the longest continuous history since very ancient times precisely because they strive for compromise, a safety valve for dissenting minorities,  pluralities and the individual.

This is also why, like sex-starved teenagers, most people lie outrageously to themselves and others when their urges or needs are fiercely and unreasonably suppressed, persecuted or disregarded.

Yet this is exactly what Ratzinger set up the Vatican to do.

Thoroughly indoctrinated in top-down order as a Hitler Youth, he rose under the tutelage of the most authoritarian German bishops. When he finally went to Rome he was quickly dubbed "the Panzerkardinal" as he  steamrolled over anyone with whom he disagreed.

His entire papacy is a venture dedicated to reducing the  Catholic Church to the tight-knit, goose-stepping 10 percent of Catholics who obey every rule (or fake it well and self-righteously).

Even nuns aren't allowed to care about the poor, whom a Galilean woodworker of long ago called "blessed." They must fight abortion and s-e-x first!

It can't be done? Pretend. Oh, and make all the financial shenanigans behind the operation go away.

This authoritarian illogic is how, as even Cuba's Prensa Latina reported, Castro's comrades practiced "sociolismo" (partnership in misappropriation of state property or funds) rather than socialism.

This is also how conservative Newton Leroy Gingrich attempted to overthrow President Clinton for sexual escapades while Gingrich himself was cheating on his dying wife with a woman from a church choir.

What made the man I none-too-affectionately call Papa Nazinger think that his own wrongheaded fanatical agenda wouldn't become the refuge of scoundrels?

Maybe it was his butler's benign smile of submission.
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