Pol­i­tics of the Pope.

GQ (Australia) - - CONTENTS -

Ire­cently found my­self caught in the mid­dle of what can only be de­scribed as Pope-demonium. I was on my way to din­ner with a friend who lives near Cen­tral Park in New York. We fool­ishly sched­uled this catch-up at ex­actly the same time Pope Fran­cis was due to ad­dress the faith­ful in the park. It took half an hour to walk three blocks as a crowd of 80,000 made its way in­side at a gla­cial pace. And in a case of breath­tak­ingly id­i­otic tim­ing, I at­tempted the jour­ney home when ev­ery­body was leav­ing. I spent a quar­ter of my evening swept up in the throng, en­tirely against my will. When I fi­nally found sanc­tu­ary I said to my beer, ‘You can say what you like about the Pope, but he sure can pull a crowd.’ Sea­soned New York­ers will tell you the crowd was noth­ing com­pared to Si­mon & Gar­funkel’s Live in Cen­tral Park in 1981. And they’d be right. 500,000 peo­ple turned up and ev­ery sin­gle one of them can be heard on the al­bum. In defence of Fran­cis’ rock star pulling power, if he promised to sing ‘The Sounds of Si­lence’ and ‘The Boxer’, I’d have been there too. But what no­body can ar­gue against is the en­dur­ing pop­u­lar­ity of the pa­pacy. For a long time politi­cians have lined up for a pa­pal photo op – be­cause noth­ing says ‘I might not be quite as un­trust­wor­thy as I look’ like a selfie with a guy who many think has a bat phone to god. Pope Fran­cis does seem like quite a guy. He’s not into lux­ury, likes to catch the bus, wants the world to bet­ter care for the poor, de­cries the dam­ag­ing ef­fect that greed has on peo­ple and the planet and, when asked about his views on ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, said, ‘Who am I to judge?’ See, what’s not to love? Well, a fair bit, ap­par­ently. On the con­ser­va­tive side of pol­i­tics and the me­dia, Pope Fran­cis is painted as some­thing of a menace. The fact he’s against un­fet­tered cap­i­tal­ism has many on the right la­belling him a so­cial­ist, a com­mu­nist and a dan­ger­ous re­ac­tionary. His en­cycli­cal sup­port­ing of global ac­tion on cli­mate change had many, in­clud­ing a num­ber of US pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, say­ing he should leave sci­ence to the sci­en­tists (be­fore adding, ‘I’m not a sci­en­tist’ and then ig­nor­ing all the sci­ence). To bor­row from some old book, all of this out­rage is built on sand. To use the Pope as a foil for a po­lit­i­cal ar­gu­ment du jour is a pretty cheap move, likely to amount to less than noth­ing. As was high­lighted re­cently when, soon af­ter wow­ing them in the park, the Pope met with Kim Davis, the Ken­tucky county clerk who re­fused to pro­vide mar­riage li­cences to same-sex cou­ples. The same pun­dits and can­di­dates that de­cried the Pope as a heretic sang his praises on high for giv­ing so­lace to a sup­posed mar­tyr. In Aus­tralia, pa­pal pol­i­tics have, strangely, worked in re­verse – the left jump­ing un­self­con­sciously on to the band­wagon with the Greens call­ing on our then Prime Min­is­ter to re­mem­ber he was Catholic and take the Pope’s en­vi­ron­men­tal views as gospel. This, from the very peo­ple who have long ar­gued that there was no place for re­li­gion in gov­ern­ment. Per­haps the Pope wears white not to sug­gest pu­rity, rather to al­low the world to project on to the pa­pacy what­ever suits them at the time. The irony is that the pa­pacy it­self has a pretty che­quered past. Pope Sergius III mur­dered his pre­de­ces­sor to get the job and his son, by a teenage mis­tress, later be­came Pope. Boni­face VIII mas­sa­cred an en­tire town and was a pro­lific pae­dophile. And de­spite his name, In­no­cent VIII fa­thered eight il­le­git­i­mate sons in what’s known as The Golden Age of Bas­tards. All of this, and we’re barely scratch­ing the sur­face of the sur­face of pa­pal in­dis­cre­tions, not least of which has been in­ac­tion in re­gard to in­sti­tu­tional abuse. Be­cause Popes, like politi­cians, are only hu­man. And should be re­mem­bered thus. For per­fec­tion, mir­a­cles and tran­scen­dence, try Si­mon & Gar­funkel: The Con­cert in Cen­tral Park. n


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