Pope John Paul II – fundamentalist

How much longer must we suffer this intolerable perversion? “The Pope died after a courageous battle with illness that gripped the world,” The Guardian whispered in hushed tones. I always wished nothing less than a peaceful end for the man admired by over a billion Catholics. In tributes flowing in from the corners of the globe, not a criticism among them. Perhaps it’s too soon to seriously critique the true legacy of the Pope or maybe commentators feel it somehow inappropriate to do so. I suspect the thought process is something akin to treating the dead Polish bloke like he was Jesus himself, but with less hair. Who knows how media organisations make their decisions. So let me be one of the first to voice dissent.

Thankfully, others have come before me, such as George Monbiot. Issue number one, birth control:

“Every year the Pope kills tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of the world’s most vulnerable people by the simple expedient of forbidding Catholics to use condoms. While his imprecations are dismissed by most churchgoers in the First World as a load of papal bull, in countries in which there is little access to alternative sources of information and in which women have few rights, every papal decree against contraception sentences thousands to a lingering death.”

Whenever the Pope preached in the world’s poorest countries, he argued sexual abstinence as the only acceptable form of birth control. This shameful ignorance of the true reality on the ground beggars belief. Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, to name just a few, are struggling with massive outbreaks of HIV/AIDS, and bishops still teach that wearing condoms causes AIDS by leaking the virus. As Monbiot rightly states, the Pope should be charged with crimes against humanity. A man of the people, indeed.

Then we come to Pope Pius XII, the Nazi-sympathiser who helped Hitler by crushing opposition in the German Church as well as collaborating with the Nazis. This is a man whom Pope John Paul II was pushing for sainthood. Luckily public outrage, not least of all from the Jewish community, caused these plans to be placed on hold. John Paul went to great lengths during his life to build bridges between the Catholic and Jewish communities, long scarred due to the Holocaust and historical animosities. His blind devotion to Pius XII therefore remains a mystery.

And what about Mother Teresa? Christopher Hitchens has written extensively on this supposedly saintly woman:

“MT was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.”

She embezzled funds from a Haitian dictatorship and while opening numerous shelters for the poor in India never once accounted for the vast amounts of money she had collected in her travels. The Pope rushed to “beatify” Teresa, the first step to “sainthood,” only one year after her death, rather than waiting the customary five. Hitchens puts it best: “She was a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud.” His incendiary book on MT, The Missionary Position, is essential reading.

What about the Pope’s attitudes to sexual abuse of minors in the priesthood? The sordid tale of Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston takes a familiar path. Aside from the fact that Law knowingly reassigned men with a history of sadistic behaviour against children, he now resides in Rome beyond the arm of the law. Evidence is once again overwhelming that both he and the Vatican conspired to cover-up the abuse.

Hitchens reminds us of the recent role of the Vatican in the Terry Schiavo case:

“Terri Schiavo’s parents were in court…instructing their lawyer to ask a judge to consider the church’s teaching on purgatory and hell, and the state of the late Ms. Schiavo’s soul. The Vatican is actually a foreign government, recognized as such by an exchange of ambassadors. Are we expected to be complacent when its clerical supporters try to short-circuit the U.S. Constitution with pleas of this kind?”

By all means, let’s remember the Pope’s grand achievements, such as assisting the fall of Communism across Eastern Europe and fighting the illegal war in Iraq, but we mustn’t forget his myraid of failings.

“Goodbye, nice old man”, writes conservative blogger Tim Blair. Only a blind person should agree.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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