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April 19, 2005

On The Fix Ö

Old-time political machine watchers develop a knack for spotting ďthe fix.Ē It really isnít very hard to do. Iíll give you an example.

For the past nine days, various Vatican spin machines have been releasing stories their swell fellah in Germany, the now-former Joseph Ratzinger. Specifically, theyíve been smoothing over the fact that olí Cardinal Joe was, indeed, a member of the Hitler Youth Corp who graduated into manufacturing anti-aircraft guns.

Itís easy to understand why some people might find his history troublesome, particularly in light of his sainted (to-be, evidently) predecessorís valiant and heroic stands against both the Nazis and the Soviets. So the spin machines started grinding out the word: he was 14, he was drafted, he was only following orders. Geez, youíd think he was the pope or something.

I canít tell you how astonished I was to hear the man got the job within about a day of his big post-spin audition-mass.

Personally, Ratzingerís promotion only has an aesthetic impact. I have no plans to go to Africa, perform first-aid on Africans, or go to bed with any Africans (and by ďAfricans,Ē of course, I mean ďAfrican-AfricansĒ). So if Ratzinger thinks itís his godís will to promote the spreading of AIDs, well, I guess itís cheaper and more energy-conscious than, say, transporting Africans to gas chambers.

As Pete Townshend said, ďMeet the new boss Ö Same as the old boss.Ē

Posted by Mike Gold at April 19, 2005 02:00 PM

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I'm not exactly a practicing (or even amateur) Christian, but a major cornerstone of Christianity -- and the Catholic church -- is redemption. Paul is the classic example. If memory serves, he actually persecuted Christians until he fell off his donkey and had an epiphany.

The redemption angle also worked well for GWB. Rather that utterly discrediting him, all his youthful indiscretions actually bolstered his image as a born-again, former sinner, who had been raised up and saved.

Praise the lord and pass the ammunition...but not the condoms.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at April 19, 2005 03:05 PM

Hmm, Mike, I understand you aren't Catholic, but this seems over the top. The Cardinals just elected a pope who was a ... wait for it... devout Catholic. No big shock there. As for what a man did 60 years ago, Rick has it right, repentence and forgiveness is a vital theme in the church. Remember, the prodigal son is loved even more than the "good son" in the parable, much to the good son's dismay.

And I'm not a Cardinal, but I'd believe that God doesn't think that condom use is the best way to stop AIDS, it's stopping the out-of-wedlock fornication that is the best way. The commandments don't say things like, "Thou shalt not kill, but if you do, at least do it in a painless way." God commands you not to have sex in such a way that makes the spread of AIDS possible. (Disclaimer: This is what I believe that God believes, not what *I* believe.)

Meet the old boss... exactly. The Pope is supposed to be like this, someone who upholds and preserves the Catholic ideals and tenets. The Holy Spirit, acting through the Cardinals, wouldn't act any other way.

Posted by: Londo at April 20, 2005 09:47 AM

Like I said, I couldn't care less who anybody selects to run anybody's church, as it affects me. Of course, a legion of Catholics led by the local Cardinal is heading up to Hartford today to get the government to pass laws banning stem-cell research, abortion, and euthenasia, so I guess it DOES affect me.

OK, he was a Nazi and now he repents. That's cool. Explain that to my mother and father, who lost most of their relatives in Nazi camps.

I wouldn't presume to speak for anybody's god, but saying stopping out-of-wedlock fornication is the best way to stop the spread of AIDS is not only scientifically naive -- there have been a lot of nuns with AIDs out there who, presumably, haven't taken it up the ass -- but it's a complete fantasy. History has shown us people ain't gonna stop fucking, no matter which god says what. Condoms will help prevent AIDS -- it's just that simple. Not everybody will use them, and our prisons have proven that. But it will reduce the spread and save lives.

I wasn't expecting anything less from the church than what happened -- both in Italy yesterday and in Connecticut today. But both are examples of the church ramming their beliefs down non-believers throats.

Posted by: Mike Gold at April 20, 2005 09:59 AM

Although the Catholic church has a great deal of blood on its hands for its aggressive expansion of its belief system over the centuries, I'm far more concerned about the vociferously intolerant agenda of some of the more recent Christian splinter groups. The Catholic church seems to have mellowed with age by comparison.

Although John Paul the Sequel was very conservative on reproductive-related issues, he was also vocally and publicly opposed to the death penalty and the war in Iraq. I don't think many leaders of the "Religious Right" in America could -- or would want to -- make similar claims.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at April 20, 2005 11:16 AM

Explain that to my mother and father...

There is no explaination to them, if they don't believe in the same basic principle of repentence and forgiveness that the RCC professes. Could I forgive the guy who SHOT me as a terrorist act? Unlikely. Yet, JPII did. It's a basic tenet of the faith. It's cool if you don't want to sign up for forgiveness, but you cannot be a good Catholic if do not. (I know you aren't...)

As for AIDS, it's scientifically naive to believe that people wont kill each other, too. But the church hasn't mellows on its "Thou Shalt Not" on that one, either, nor would anyone expect them to. They believe what they believe. If you don't, no big deal, you don't have to join. Or, you can use a condom, and ask for forgiveness, until you are in an AIDS free, monogamous relationship.

As for your local Cardinal (You sure you don't mean Archbishop Mansell? Connecticut doesn't have a Cardinal) marching on Hartford... Well, they shouldn't be taken any more seriously than any other concerned citizen group marching on the Capital. If they are, then you've got weak politicans over there. Maybe this governor will stay out of jail?

And EVERYONE rams their beliefs down each other's throats. Gun owners ram their guns down my throat, Gays ram their sexual tolerance down my throat, Baptists cram creationism down my throat, athiests ensure that no Christmas tree appears in my Town Hall. Liberals try to cram the "check with the International Community" stuff at me, while the Bushie's do the Shoot first... ask questions never.. at me. That's the way it works -- indeed, is SUPPOSED to work -- in America. The stance with the most support of the people is supposed to win out. Hopefully, your state legislature is good enough to see that.

Posted by: Londo at April 20, 2005 12:32 PM

" Gays ram their sexual tolerance down my throat?" Now, that's an entertaining metaphor.

Posted by: Martha Thomases at April 20, 2005 04:33 PM

Thanks :^) That was the clean version!

Posted by: Londo at April 20, 2005 04:54 PM

"So if Ratzinger thinks itís his godís will to promote the spreading of AIDs, well, I guess itís cheaper and more energy-conscious than, say, transporting Africans to gas chambers."

Wow, over the top much?

One question--if Africans--or any other group for that matter--followed the Pope's teachings to the letter what would happen to the AIDS crisis?

That may be unrealistic but it's ridiculous to blame the man when people pick and choose which of his teachings to follow and then blame him when it all blows up in their face. Take some responsibility! I remember having an equally goofy conversation with someone who claimed that the church's condemnation of divorce would make it culpable if a man decided to murder his wife, since he could not get a divorce without sinning.

(What was that Tom Lehere song?--the one where some girl slaughters her whole family but when the cops come she confesses all because to deny it would be telling a lie "and lying she knew was a sin")

Posted by: Bill Mulligan at April 20, 2005 05:25 PM

But that's just not true. If people followed the pope's teachings to the letter, we would still have AIDS. It is an astonishing misunderstanding to say that the AIDS crisis is entirely or even overwhelmingly related to extramarital, premarital and/or gay sex. That simply is not the case, and that's a very dangerous attitude to take.

Blaming sex for AIDS is a shell game. Well, actually itís more like a Ponzi scheme, but that requires a lot of thought for little purpose. The virus is transmitted in a whole lot of ways, and because AIDS is and for 20+ years has been a reality, we need to take whatever steps we can to stop it. Abstinence ain't gonna be enough. We've got to adopt (pardon the pun but it's unavoidable) prophylactic measures.

I have been told that birth control is a matter of regulation and not scripture; that Christ didn't talk about it and it wasn't much of an issue in his time. And, yes, despite what Al Franken said there certainly was birth control 2000 years ago -- IUDs go back to Talmudic times. If this is the case, than it is a regulation that is very dangerous to maintain. I cite my earlier, crass, and definitely over the top phrasing about nuns.

Because AIDS is a reality that affects all people on this planet and not just the minority who happen to be Christian, or the small minority who follow the teachings of the pope, it is an issue that is beyond the limitations of any religious persuasion. Nobody has a right to prevent others from taking steps to slow its spread.

And itís really convenient for American Catholics to support the pope on AIDS when a significant majority of them admit to using, or having used when relevant, sundry birth control measures themselves.

Posted by: Mike Gold at April 20, 2005 05:59 PM

"But that's just not true. If people followed the pope's teachings to the letter, we would still have AIDS. It is an astonishing misunderstanding to say that the AIDS crisis is entirely or even overwhelmingly related to extramarital, premarital and/or gay sex. That simply is not the case, and that's a very dangerous attitude to take."

Okay, I'm willing to be enlightened. We wake up in a world where people remain celibate until marriage and stay faithful during that marriage.

How bad would the AIDS crisis be in the years that followed? (note--I didn't say it would vanish. Can you at least admit that it would, in fact, improve the situation? If not, then condoms probably won't help either). Sure, there would still be transmission from the many now infected but even that would be limited, as it is not at the present time. Even adding in the transmission from drug use (which I suspect also violates many of the Church teachings) we are talking about a BIG drop in new cases. (NOTHING can be done for those already infected, short of a cure. Given our history of curing viruses I am not optimistic)

There would also still be the matter of infection from contamination of the blood supply and the reuse of needles in poor countries. This would also be seriously ameliorated if the wealthier countries followed the Church's teachings on generosity to the less fortunate.

Mind you, I disagree with the Pope on birth control, gay marriage, and a host (Ha!) of other issues. I'm just not willing to use that as an excuse to A-blame him for ills that he is not responsible for (BTW has anyone ever shown any reason for us to believe that those who are getting AIDS are doing so because of a slavish devotion to the Pope?) and B_ characterize him as a Nazi for the crime of being a 14 year old kid in 1941 Germany.

No doubt Little Mikey Gold and Little Billy Mulligan would have mustered all the courage inherent in 14 year olds and bravely protested our legally mandated membership in the Hitler Youth had we been in his position but we can't expect everyone to reach our lofty standards.

Posted by: Bill Mulligan at April 20, 2005 06:56 PM

"Gays ram sexual tolerance down my throat"

Yeah, but did you swallow?

Posted by: gene hall at April 20, 2005 09:24 PM

Personally, I think the pope is a silly old geezer with a great collection of funny hats. But more importantly, so do most American Catholics. Something like 75% in a recent poll said they would follow their own consciences rather than papal decrees. Although I think a highly enlightened pope would be nice, in the larger scheme of things I don't think it matters much. I think the recent pope-a-palooza was just another slice of bread-and-circuses entertainment for the masses, designed to distract us from the stuff that really does matter.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at April 21, 2005 07:53 AM

Well, not to be crass, but I feel I should pose the question: Why are we getting so worked up about the new Pope? He's already 78 - it's not right to say this, but I expect to see another "Pope-a-palooza" (awesome term, by the way) some time sooner rather than later.

Heck, who knows. Maybe they elected him to stall for time while they think of who they want to be their next long-term pope.

Posted by: Andy Holman at April 21, 2005 11:31 AM

There's little doubt that Pope Joey Rats (sorry, I couldn't resist) is an interim pope. The smart money from the start was on the cardinals electing a relatively old candidate with views consistent with those of PJP2.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at April 21, 2005 11:51 AM

Well, the last time a guy this old was elected pope he only ruled for 5 years. Pope John XXIII. Yeah, HE didn't get to do much, unless you include Vatican II which resulted in a new liturgy and ecuminism.

Posted by: Bill Mulligan at April 21, 2005 12:42 PM

In the interest of fairness, it bears mentioning that Ratzinger ultimately abandoned the German army at the risk of his own life.

Posted by: Clay at April 22, 2005 09:00 AM

In the interest of reality, lots of German soldiers were deserting at the end of the war -- and most of them figured the risk of being shot as a deserter was better than the near certainty of being killed at the front.

But, back to fairness, there was a big difference between being in the Wehrmacht or Luftwaffe and being a card-carrying Nazi -- and although Ratzinger was in the Hitler Youth, so was just about every other German child who wasn't in a concentration camp. And finally, as I pointed out earlier, since the church is big on redemption, Ratzinger's later actions as a clergyman would pretty much negate most earlier sins in the eyes of the church.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at April 22, 2005 10:17 AM

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