Sunday, April 03, 2005

Did anyone else find these scenes distasteful?

If I was religious I would find the hullabaloo surrounding the death of the Pope even less bearable than I do. It seems like every reporter who has anything to do with the reporting of the event is trying to be more holy than the next. They all have taken on this faux devout tone that stinks of sheer hypocrisy. Not to mention the five-minute hagiographies that all the media seem to be intent on producing. Round here, it’s all Pope, all the time! Everyone on television is making it out like this was the most significant event in their life and that they will now be trying to be holy and good. Far be it for me to criticise people wanting to live their lives morally, but this kind of straw fire enthusiasm occasioned by the death of a famous religious figure ought to be just as distasteful to the profoundly religious as it is to me. Deep religious beliefs I find scary but, at least, I can respect; this kind of thing is just nauseating.

The whole thing is rather distasteful, in fact, not just the religious devotion born from it. First, the fact that a crippled old man was kept on in office till his body finally gave out. I know exactly what Parkinson’s does to a person and the Pope would not have been able to properly fulfil his duties for many years now. An extreme case is the claim that he named several bishops the day before he died. I suspect that this meant no more than him nodding his silent assent to a list of names of which I am not convinced he knew the owners. Second, is the vulture-like media frenzy that has encircled this dying man. It seems like every step of his last few months had been examined, photographed and televised around the globe – his tired, diseased frame half cruciform advertisement for the faith, half media theatre of the macabre. Third, the enervated stories circulated about his last hours and immediately endowed with puffed-up meaningfulness: the last note, the last word. The back and forth story of his last days presented to the world in the end reminded me of nothing so much as of the way that James Brown would repeatedly shuffle off the stage, always coming back for that one more time. Obscene, really.

I am not saying that I would have known what to do in such a situation. Given the real interest in the Pope it would have been difficult to have made his dying days more private. I guess it just seems to me that he should have retired to Castel Gandolfo a long time ago. Cardinals can not vote for the Pope upon reaching eighty – why shouldn’t the Pope also retire at that age, at the latest?


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