Friday, April 2, 2010

Pope Should End No-Nookie Policy

    You know you’re losing the public relations game when you’re facing a moral crisis similar to one confronted by Jimmy Swaggart—and his reaction demonstrated more integrity than your own. Such is the dilemma confronting Pope Benedict XVI in the face of the child molestation scandal. When Swaggart was outted back in 1988 for doing things with a prostitute that would embarrass Ron Jeremy, the televangelist huckster walked out to the center stage of his ministry of 7,000 in Baton Rouge, admitted “moral failure,” resigned his post before the world, and blubbered to the Lord for forgiveness. Then he asked for donations. It was a pathetic spectacle, without a shred of dignity. But Swaggart understood that it wasn’t about dignity; it was about making a virtue of his vice and saving his church. The only way he had a chance of emerging from this mess looking like a Christian was to act like one--to come clean and admit that he blew it, so to speak.

    The pope needs to get this, whatever his priests may or may not have blown. Anyone who has given new meaning to “no child left behind” the way the Vatican has needs a game-changing strategy.
After all, the reason for the Catholic Church’s existence is the claim that it’s God’s exclusive mouthpiece on earth. The best way to prove that, and to deflect accusations of the Church as perv central (if that’s still possible) is for Pope Benedict to do the Christian thing: confess whatever there is to confess, repent sincerely, and atone for any sins committed. He needs to walk the walk and show us how it’s done. We need to see a healthy dose of the same self-sacrifice he keeps demanding from the rest of us; the kind demonstrated by the guy he wears as a trinket around his neck. How can he expect all of us to behave morally if his own holy hierarchy doesn’t measure up?

    Doing this on Easter, by the way, would not be “inappropriate.” It would be the perfect time to show how a real Christian behaves. Christians are supposed to embrace the truth, and never mind the earthly consequences. After all, they’re angling for eternal life. And the Church is fishing for new recruits. The pope isn’t going to achieve either by coming off like the officious CEO of God, Inc. Circling the wagons, blaming his accusers, and stonewalling won’t cut it. He needs to do something selfless and dramatic--because this is for all the marbles. Western civilization has put up with the witch-hunts, the Crusades, the Inquisitions, the book-burnings, and the suppression of science, along with the cheap wine and gag-inducing wafers, for centuries now. But the current scandal is so pervasive and so…icky, as well as criminal, that it crosses a new line. The pontiff has to hit the reset button with something earnest and impressive which no other institution would dare try. Unfortunately, you get a sense from the Vatican's pronouncements that prostrating himself before the world is not on the pope's “to-do” list. Big mistake.

    Nor is eliminating the problem that is the cause of this whole mess—the celibate priesthood. The pope has got to end the use of his church as a refuge for confused or twisted men with sexual issues. A profession that allows men to deny their sexuality makes it a sanctuary for those who would rather bury their issues than confront them. Yeah, sure, we like the “purity” idea for our holy men, but plenty of religious leaders have sex lives (just ask Jimmy Swaggart) and they manage to provide spiritual leadership.

   The No-Nookie policy isn’t doing anyone any good. It wasn’t a requirement of early Christianity. In fact, the celibate priesthood wasn’t official until about thousand years after the crucifixion, and was established mostly so that a dead priest would leave his property to the Church instead of to a family. It was about the money.

    Admittedly, as a protestant fundamentalist, Swaggart didn’t face the No-Nookie policy and yet he didn't stick to the straight and narrow, either. But at least his activities weren’t criminal; they were just a little nauseating. That's a lot easier to forgive. 

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