23 April 2007

Heavenly real estate offers

The Catholic Church has always (or at least since the 4th century) excelled at realpolitik. John Paul II was a master at this; even as he expressed the most exclusionary statements and signed documents re-affirming the most reactionary and absurd dogmas, he received and prayed with leaders of many countries and was popular with followers of every faith — people who, according to anything but the most liberal interpretation of Catholic doctrine, were (are) most certainly doomed to burn in hell forever (most world leaders should be there anyway, but that's not what I'm getting at).

John Paul's death brought Joseph Ratzinger aka Benedict XVI to the throne of the last remaining theocratic state on Earth (except possibly Iran). There were some uninformed ones who thought the Church would do a U-turn in many respects, as Benedict was pictured as extremely conservative and completely devoid of charisma, an ivory-tower theologian. Well, he is indeed all of those things, but in his time directing the Holy Office, he was also "John Paul's bulldog".

Those who bought the public image of JP as a worldly man, close to the common man, open and ecumenical, do not know or fail to recall that Ratzinger was the actual author of many of the things that John Paul signed and released; conversely, when Ratzinger caused an outrage with the publication of a document that said that all religions except Catholicism were "gravely deficient", many seemed surprised at this blow against JP's ecumenical efforts, forgetting that anything published by Ratzinger must be approved by the Pope. It's apparent that at certain times Wojtyla and Ratzinger were playing "good cop, bad cop" with the faithful; Wojtyla used Ratzinger as a channel for unadulterated medieval Catholic thought while he himself kept a more amicable public profile, distributing hugs and kisses to all those damn heathens and heretics and making the masses roar in approval at a profusion of new saints.

After an initial timidity and some stuttering public appearances where
Ratzinger's uncharismaticness and a humourously sinister profile were thoroughly exposed, the Pope took shelter again in his tower and started to produce. If he's good at something, he's definitely good as a theologian, or so the experts say.

The latest output of the pontifical mind were the definitive shutdown of limbo, where newborn children who died without baptism were previously destined to stay (they'll be redirected to heaven from now), and the complementary re-opening of hell, which John Paul II had previously closed down.

This is all so deliciously bizarre and so exquisitely irrelevant that I had to mention it. It doesn't have to do with Rosario, Argentina, or any of my usual topics... indeed, it has nothing to do with anything on the face of the Earth except the fears of a handful of fanatics and possibly the future history of mythology. For 99% of the Catholic Church (the lay people and most of the priests and nuns) these metaphysical moves will be meaningless, as they don't relate at all with the actual human condition that they have to deal with every day.

In places as fucked up as Argentina, in particular, the Church can't afford wasting time on the details. When Benedict XVI said it'd be nice to sing mass in Latin, the local hierarchy stayed silent, while those in the know laughed sotto voce, thinking of how a Latin mass with the priest facing away from the attendants would throw the few remaining practising Catholics into the arms of the evangelicals. The priests overseeing private Catholic schools are too busy charging huge fees to educate the children of the rich to remind them that they, too, can go to Benedict's real hell place. The ones in charge of soup kitchens, who feed poor kids every day, would mostly feel it rather useless to tell their neighbourhood's undernourished teenage mothers that their children will go directly to heaven when they die of starvation or of some easily avoided disease.

Surprisingly... or not, the media have reflected profusely on Herr Ratzinger's supernatural real estate announcements. Listening to the radio today, there was a brief, light discussion about this, and dozens of people called to give the half-baked inarticulations that make up 90% of mediatic content. Half-baked, yet these comments showed at least a passing interest. Must be true that there are ultimate questions that all human beings feel drawn to, no matter their place of birth, culture, age or education; and that must be why the Church doesn't pay too much attention.

Oh no, the local Church is working in the real world. Some are doing more or less what Scripture says they should do, most just going through the motions, and the rest... are doing politics.


  1. Anonymous16:42

    Hi Pablo:

    I am thinking of moving to Rosario next year. Do you know of any Americans living there?

    Love your Blog.


  2. Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur:

    Da mihi sis bubulae frustrum assae, solana tuberosa in modo gallico fricta, ac quassum lactatum coagulatum crassum. Mmmmmmm, fries.

    Pablo, I’ve reserved us seats in the Eight Circle, Bolgia 8. I just hope the Argentines in Bolgia 5 don’t make to much noise!


  3. Pablo, you forgot to mention that Paparatzi was formerly Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (otherwise known as the Inquisition).


  4. First of all, to Sergio: yes, there are, but I don't remember. Just in case someone sees this comment, please leave an email address (masked in some way to avoid spam). I'll be posting about this tomorrow or the day after that so you can gather contacts.

  5. Next, John: you were too hasty; I was thinking of doing a comprehensive tour of the whole Inferno. I've heard Malebolge is overrated and oversold, and it'll probably be full of Argentine families with kids. I will spend a while there but only if we go see Father Lucy right after that.

  6. "In places as fucked up as Argentina"- All right now buddy. I'm sensing a little too much negativity creeping into this blog (Juuaaa!)

    Just joking!

  7. Okely Dokely Pablo, but remember you’ll also need to spend a little time in the Fourth Circle (for avarice), and visit the inner ring of the Seventh Circle (for blasphemy), although the latter does sound like a day at the beach.

    You should come out of wikiretirement, at least temporarily, to expand La Divina Comedia. Otherwise how’re the hispanohablantes going to find their way?

    I’d expected that today’s blog might have dealt with the government approval of a 16.5% annual pay increase for six key unions. Or perhaps the latest on El Diego.

    I was sorely tempted to spoof your blog on Friday with my “A Plot of my Own”, describing my own real estate quest for a place in the Boca Juniors section in the Parque Pereyra Iraola cemetery ..

    Nill illigitimi carborundum!



  8. Anonymous08:51

    Thanks, Pablo!


  9. Pablo, you do realize that if are successful in your bid to make Rosario an autonomous city, that accomplishment will indeed be a miracle, and you could easily find yourself as San Pablo de Rosario. Perhaps you could be the co-patron saint of lost causes, along with the Jude guy.

    Of course Brother Néstor will surely be up for sainthood in the not-too-distant future, seeing how he’s already performed several miracles.


  10. Sheesh. Shuttin' down Limbo!

    How low can you go?


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