Not a good day to be Pope

For the first time in more than 1000 years, it might be considered a bad thing to be Pope. Up until now, the Pope has commanded a great deal of influence and respect (the Reformation notwithstanding) worldwide. Being Pope means that whatever thought crosses your mind carries the force of law for millions of adherents worldwide. Get caught in a lie? No problem, it’s one of those divine mysteries. Want to declare war or raise an army? Justify it by calling it a holy war. Want to raise money for your ridiculously huge home in your city/state with your own private guards? Sell indulgences! Don’t like the concept of limbo? Fuck it – it’s done.

Yeah, being Pope is a pretty sweet deal, giving you control over people’s bodies, minds and souls. No other leader in the world commands the kind of power that the Pope has. Except the cracks are starting to show in the facade:

Two German lawyers have initiated charges against Pope Benedict XVI at the International Criminal Court, alleging crimes against humanity. Christian Sailer and Gert-Joachim Hetzel, based at Marktheidenfeld in the Pope’s home state of Bavaria, last week submitted a 16,500-word document to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at the Hague, Dr Luis Moreno Ocampo. Their charges concern “three worldwide crimes which until now have not been denounced . . . (as) the traditional reverence toward ‘ecclesiastical authority’ has clouded the sense of right and wrong”.

They claim the Pope “is responsible for the preservation and leadership of a worldwide totalitarian regime of coercion which subjugates its members with terrifying and health-endangering threats”.

It can be difficult to pull back from revering religion and those who claim its authority to examine their actions dispassionately. However, once you do, you immediately begin to recognize that the Catholic Church is a massive organization with hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide. Imagine for a moment that BP required that all of its employees refrain from using birth control and outlawed extramarital sex. Imagine that Microsoft recruited its software developers as infants and threatened them with torture if they ever quit. Imagine that Google tried to regulate how its marketing directors thought, compelling them to report all unapproved thoughts and handing out punishments as “atonement”.

Divorced from its God claim, this is exactly what the RCC has done for centuries. Of course one could make the argument that membership is voluntary, but how “voluntary” can it possibly be when their main source of recruitment is infants who are then indoctrinated in corporate schools to have many babies and continue the cycle ad infinitum? As someone who has broken out of the indoctrination I can personally attest to the fact that it ain’t so easy as “voluntary” makes it sound.

That’s what those evil secularists do though, right Joseph? It’s all those darn secularists that are making your life so hard:

Six Moroccan men have been arrested in northern Italy on suspicion of seeking to incite hatred of Pope Benedict among Muslims. Police in the city of Brescia said the suspects had allegedly banded together to stir up religious hatred. A note was found calling for the Pope to be punished for converting a Muslim journalist to Roman Catholicism.

Oooor maybe it’s your co-religionists. The Pope has a very fine line to walk. First, he has to assert (without evidence) that his particular interpretation of scripture is the correct one. Second, he has to assert that his particular scripture is the correct one. Third, he has to do all this while simultaneously reaching out to all those people who are so clearly wrong as to believe in a different magic book. He has, of late, decided to try and unite the faithful by putting all the blame against a common enemy – those with no magic book whatsoever. Sadly, while the non-book people have been content to voice their objections through legal channels, those of a different belief are fomenting violence and hatred against him.

Ratzinger has done a poor job of picking his allies, and has done an even worse job of picking his enemies. The history of his own organization should have been enough to teach him that religious groups will always fracture, splinter, and turn against each other. Those same groups he’s reaching out to for some kind of ecumenical allegiance against those who would simply like religion gone from the public sphere will turn against him at the first opportunity, but not before his influence and numbers have dwindled past the point where he can mount a sufficient defense.

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