We asked Danny to do something lighthearted and festive to end the year. Maybe the baby Jesus or the Frankfurt Christmas Market, something like that. He took those themes of religion and dark foreign influence and sent us this. God help us.
I don’t trust this new pope.
I don’t really trust any pope, but this new one, Times Person of the year 2013, Pope Francis the PR pope, I don’t trust especially.
The last pope—the one that looked like an evil ventriloquist dummy made of meat—visited Birmingham, weirdly choosing Cofton Park for his service. I say ‘weirdly’ not only because, it used to be the site of bonfire night celebrations, the most pagan of festivals, but because a few years before a man’s head was found in Cofton Park. I’m not sure if he liked the John The Baptist imagery or had a thing for Rover cars but I’ve had my eye on popes ever since.
For a start, this new pope: he was once a bouncer. Have you met those psychopaths? But it’s not just that. I did door work around Birmingham, back before the doors were regulated, and I’m relatively well adjusted–despite seeing some awful acts of instant justice done round the back by the bins of Star City. Needs must when the devil pisses in your teapot.
I started to take notice when I heard he shuns the usual papal pageantry: he wears a plain cross, sits on a wooden throne and is reported to have said when he was offered the traditional ermine cloak “the carnival ends today”. Although this probably never happened. Or if it did this is coming from the same office that told us that pope John Ringo Paul II’s last words were “allow me to depart to the house of my father”, a surprisingly complicated sentence for a man with a complete circulatory collapse in near coma.
The thing is: Pope Frankie, as his close friends don’t ever get to call him, did shun all of the crosses, the golden throne and the cloak. But the church still has those things—they’re still cluttering up one of the back rooms in his massive house. They didn’t Craigslist them and give them to charity. This is the inherent contradiction of this pope. He chose his name after Francis of Assisi and spoke out against big business, denouncing capitalism as “the worship of the golden calf” but this coming from the head of one of the wealthiest organisations in the World seems to be speaking out of both sides of his mouth.
Recently he said that the church should stop focussing on abortion, contraception, and gay rights, and should instead focus on the poor. This seemed like hope. Many people took this as the pope being willing to soften on these issues and, like anyone with a heart and a brain, start having a bit of perspective about what’s really important. But as I said, I don’t trust this new pope, and it seems that what he meant by ‘stop focussing’ on those issues is ‘stop entering into dialogues about these issues’.
There is little doubt about his traditional beliefs on any of what the left would call progressive issues. In a letter to the cloistered nuns of Argentina he called gay marriage a “destructive proposal of God’s plan” and a “move by the father of lies that seeks to confuse the children of God”. Even the benign prospect of women priests Pope Frankie has ruled out, his position is that women have a ‘special place’ in the catholic church, mostly pastoral and clerical, but because pope John Ringo Paul II ‘said so’ there can never be women priests. Interesting to note though that a pontifical biblical commission in 1976 said that there was no valid scriptural or theological reason for this.
Pope Frankie is a staunch pro-life advocate: in 2006 he tried to block abortion laws in Argentina even in the most extreme of cases. When the government did intervene for the case of a mentally ill rape victim he said “in Argentina we have the death penalty, a child conceived by the rape of a mentally ill or retarded woman can be condemned to death” you know, exactly like Jesus would say. Pope Frankie hasn’t stopped there, since he earned the silly hat he’s turned up at pro-life rallies, used his influence in Ireland, and even written letters to bishops encouraging them to deny communion to pro-abortion politicians.
Sitting in my underwear and a top hat staring into both barrels of 2014 I can’t help get reflective. The world is getting a meaner, more spiteful place. In these situations we look around huddling towards anyone offering warmth and a soft arm to lean on, but take a good look at who you’re hugging and check your wallet afterwards. And never trust a pope.