Monday, February 18, 2013

Ratz leaving a sinking ship: the pope resigns

I am an ex-Catholic who takes great delight in making fun of the church because... well, it is so certain it is right, and it isn't. It also pretends to be moral and isn't, and is often about as far away from the teachings of Christ as it's possible to be and not be a Nazi. Oh wait...
I'll get back to the Nazi aspect of this latest pope below (“he didn't want to be – everyone had to join the party back then....”). I'll also get around to the fact that the guy knows more about sex abuse in the church than any other pontiff ever has and did nothing to stop it or to punish (or even just excommunicate) the guilty. That stuff just ain't funny, and this is supposed to be a humorous blog post.

So I'll start with the light stuff and then bring on the heavy material toward the end. First and foremost, the media attention given to the abdication... er, resignation of this high-hatted fool has fascinated me, in that it's always fascinating to watch the news media fawn over a leader who literally exists in a dimension where the past is always present and what “we” say is always right (and everyone else? Why they're ALL going to hell....). The coverage has died down, but is sure to be ratcheted up again when the cardinals do their arcane wizardry (puff of smoke, my ass).

I find it very hard to laugh about the cruel realities of the church, but I can enjoy those who speak about its rampant hypocrisy and its backward-looking mindset – and yes, I do think that the other key religions have their backward-looking, we-are-completely-right-on-everything sects, and I have as little regard for them. I was brought up Catholic, however, so I can personally attest to the stupidity and tunnel vision of that faith.

So what is there to laugh about? Well, there is one humorist who always mocked the Catholic clergy in a pretty friendly way. I'm talking of course about Don Novello, whose “Father Guido Sarducci” character I first encountered on a Smothers Brothers comeback variety series in the mid-Seventies (I believe Fr. Guido first appeared on a David Steinberg LP called “Goodbye to the '70s”).

Father Guido is a priest who talks common sense, a gent who will never be promoted to archbishop or cardinal (that stripe “gets you the good veal in restaurants”), most likely because he's been the “gossip columnist” for the Vatican newspaper for the past 35 years. Novello infused the character with brilliant bits like this one, explaining how we all do literally “pay for our sins”:

He also came up with a foolproof way to learn only the stuff that you're left with after a regular education is over. Novello's routines as Fr. Guido have always been impeccable (that sadly misguided bit at the what-was-all-that-about “Rally to Restore Sanity” excepted); Novello's other work, on the Laszlo Letters book and as a comedy writer, has always been spot-on.

With all the affection I have for the Fr. Guido character, I should be doing a whole mock campaign here to get Signore Sarducci to be elected pope. He reported on the selection of Pope Benedict for the Al Franken radio show on Air America; the segment heard here is actually the weaker of two appearances I heard – his explanation of how the pope was chosen was far funnier (as I remember it, the process included being hit in the head with a hammer), but that particular appearance on Franken's show has not been preserved online.

There you have it – there's one guy in a priest's garb that I do love and have loved for over a third of a century. As for my evolving religious beliefs – that went from agnosticism (a discovery made in Catholic high school, mind you) to atheism – I tend to side more with the angry ex-Catholics who know how to sum up the situation in a pithy way. Guys like George Carlin, who pretty much was the poster boy for an evolving consciousness (evolving away from the church).

George inspired many standups over the years, and one who has professed his devotion and debt to Carlin is Louis CK, currently helming the best comedy series being produced in the U.S. Louis has been directing short films for a few decades now, but one of his finest hours (well, four minutes) is this little item from 2007 about the true “point” of the Catholic church:

Yeah, Louis' contention that the church “exists solely for the purpose of boy rape” may seem like a comic exaggeration – but only a little. I personally never was never raped by a priest, but was taught religion in grammar school by a priest who was arrested on child pornography charges (he was arrested in an alley off Times Square, no shit).

He was not excommunicated, merely shuffled off to another parish. My parish was abuzz for a few days with this “outrage,” but all the crazy people who believed kept believing that the church needed our collection-plate dough and all was soon forgotten. (By the way, he had also been running the parish branch of the Brownies.) A small handful of the priests and nuns I was taught by in twelve years of Catholic school were exemplary individuals; the majority, though, were afflicted with alcoholism, sadism, or flat-out insanity.

Thus we arrive back at the soon-to-be ex-Benedict, a man who served in the Hitler Youth and who, according to many, was “complicit in child sex abuse scandals.” To quote a Guardian article from last week, Pope Benedict (according to David Clohessy, the executive director of the Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests) “read thousands of pages of reports of the abuse cases from across the world. He knows more about clergy sex crimes and cover-ups than anyone else in the church yet he has done precious little to protect children."

Back when he was just Cardinal Ratso Ratzinger, the Pope was put in charge of investigating sexual abuse problems in different countries (among them Ireland and the U.S.; as Pope he also ignored major cases in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Austria). In each case, the perpetrators pretty much got off scot-free. To quote the Guardian one last time, I cite Jakob Purkarthofer, of Austria's Platform for Victims of Church Violence, who says that "Ratzinger was part of the system and co-responsible for these crimes."

So this pope is not a good, moral human being, he's a bureaucrat and administrator. And therefore I felt that the monologue and sketch about him from the first season of Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle needed to be online. The series in its entirety was up on YT at one point, but now exists only as small shards.

One would think the Comedy Vehicle sketch about Pope Ratz would be up online, though, since it interestingly enough links the Pope to Jimmy Savile. Lee and his producers are not accusing the Pope of pedophilia at all – the gag is that Il Papa wanted his strikingly garish red shoes and received them thanks to Jimmy Savile on his “Jim'll Fix It” TV series. But yeah, it seems like a fascinating link to make anyway, between a man who made a habit of molesting young folk and another gent who did nothing to stop the abuse he heard about.

Savile is played by the master Scottish comedian-provocateur Jerry Sadowitz, who did material on Savile being a pedo way back in the late Eighties – that material (less than two minutes worth) got his CD “Gobshite” completely pulled from distribution.

Lee also devises a commercial use for a likeness of Benedict's horrifyingly mean-looking face. (Those racoon eyes, man, those eyes....). Please enjoy:

Note: some of the illustrations in this piece came from


tonywrestles2 said...

Minor nitpick: you are not an "ex-Catholic". The proper term is "recovering Catholic".

Johan said...

I like how you posted that picture of Ratzinger with his arm raised in a Nazi salute without realize it's just a cropped image where he had both his arms up like that.