Not Bea­tles in need of for­giv­ing

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - ROBERT MAR­SHALL

ENGLISH PHILOSO­PHER John Locke wrote A Let­ter Con­cern­ing Tol­er­a­tion in 1689. One of its themes was the sep­a­ra­tion of church and state. Thank God he wrote it. Not nec­es­sar­ily be­cause of the wide­spread fear of the day that Catholi­cism was tak­ing over Eng­land, but be­cause to­day there isn’t the space in one room for all the scan­dal that fol­lows both in­sti­tu­tions.

Scan­dal seems to de­fine pol­i­tics ev­ery­where. It’s pretty sad that in Canada we have our six-fig­ured elected par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tives (and no doubt their staff) ze­roed in on the ac­tiv­i­ties of an ap­par­ently way­ward MP while poverty, crime and even drink­ing wa­ter are a few of the real is­sues.

But then there’s the Catholic Church. It has to deal with a sor­did his­tory of sex-scan­dals in­volv­ing chil­dren with ten­ta­cles that may reach the very top of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. And for rea­sons that have many scratch­ing their heads, the Vat­i­can’s news­pa­per, L’Osser­va­tore Ro­mano, this week passed the olive branch to the Bea­tles and for­gave them for off-the-cuff re­marks made by John Len­non 44 years ago.

Ringo Starr re­sponded quickly and was spo­ton dis­miss­ing the apol­ogy out­right. “Didn’t the Vat­i­can say we were satanic or pos­si­bly satanic — and they’ve still for­given us?… I think the Vat­i­can, they’ve got more to talk about than the Bea­tles.” I’m not Catholic but I am a big Bea­tles fan. Their mu­sic was a source of es­cape from the rigours of teenage life for many of my gen­er­a­tion. Last week, I got re­ally lucky while clean­ing up at my place. A home­made com­pi­la­tion of my favourite tunes with roots in Liver­pool fell (lit­er­ally) out from one of my cup­boards.

I threw it in an old cas­sette player, cranked it up and went for the best 45-minute tread­mill run I think I ever had. Lady Madonna, Hello Good­bye, Help, One Af­ter 909 and of course, Back in the U.S.S.R. were just a few of the songs that kept my heart rate up and my feet mov­ing.

My thoughts trav­elled to a va­ri­ety of places dur­ing that run. As a young kid, how mean­ing­ful the Bea­tles’ mu­sic seemed. The im­por­tance of hav­ing the lat­est al­bum. Crank­ing out their mu­sic on CKRC with the car win­dows down.

And my thoughts even went to the bit of in­flu­ence the four lads had on my church. As a nine-year-old cub scout, I re­mem­ber, as one of our as­sign­ments, go­ing to a ser­vice one Sun­day evening. I also re­mem­bered the min­is­ter say­ing how thank­ful he was that we’d showed up. He had been con­cerned that we may have strayed by stay­ing home and watch­ing the Bea­tles who were ap­pear­ing that night on Ed Sul­li­van.

The Bea­tles were im­por­tant to my friends. But while some of their mu­si­cal tastes drifted to the heav­ier sounds of Grand Funk Rail­road, Savoy Brown and Jethro Tull, I stayed with the Bea­tles. They may even have been the rea­son I stuck to my pi­ano lessons (that and my mom’s wooden spoon). Even my Aun­tie Marg, who wasn’t my aunt at all, but gave me those lessons for years, loved the Bea­tles’ rhythm. And she was a church or­gan­ist for decades.

The Bea­tles split up 40 years ago. Yet their mu­sic lives. In com­mer­cials and on ra­dio its pop­u­lar­ity con­tin­ues to grow with the cur­rent batch of kids.

At age 68, Paul McCart­ney still sells out con­cert venues. Back in the 1990s, he at­tracted the largest ever pay­ing au­di­ence for a solo act — ap­prox­i­mately 184,000 in Brazil, a coun­try rich in Catholic his­tory and pop­u­la­tion.

In­stead of read­ing about the Vat­i­can for­giv­ing the Bea­tles, I’d pre­fer to thank them.

Like it or not it would seem that the Bea­tles have never stopped res­onat­ing with main­stream so­ci­ety and, with scan­dal that sadly goes back more years than any­one cares to count, the Catholic Church, like pol­i­tics, is los­ing its grip on rel­e­vance.

There has been lots of PR spin about the church clean­ing it­self up. It will take more than talk. It’s time to walk the walk for real.

And it’s got noth­ing to do with the Bea­tles.

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