Out of respect for people of the Catholic faith and a sense that the death of the Pope is a poor occasion to start complaining about the Catholic Church, I have refrained from doing so. Or at least tried to refrain from doing so until the Pope was in the ground.
It got a little rocky over the weekend when I watched Patrizio Guzman's 1978 documentary The Battle of Chile, which needs to go to the top of any political blogger's must-see list immediately. One cameraman died holding a camera in the filming of the movie; the cinematographer was subsequently taken prisoner, tortured and “disappeared” during the Pinochet regime. The vision of a working class so ardently political, acting collectively to fend off the military and keep food flowing into the cities after the CIA paid all the truckers to park their trucks and stop all deliveries was really inspiring.
But the part that got me choked up was Allende's refusal to take the opportunity they offered him to flee the country on a plane. The movie broadcasts the speech he made to the people of Chile that final morning, in which he says:
I speak to all those who will be persecuted to tell you that I am not going to resign: I will repay the people's loyalty with my life. I will always be with you. I have faith in our nation and its destiny. Other men will prevail, and soon the great avenues will be open again, where free men will walk, to build a better society.The camera watches as the military (advised and funded by the CIA) sends in their tanks; planes sweep in and drop bombs on the Presidential Palace where Allende dies, true to his word. The Catholic Church was a big supporter of that military coup which resulted in the deaths by torture of untold thousands of people. So that had me feeling not so good. I could tell myself, well, maybe they didn't realize Pinochet was going to be such a butcher, but I gotta tell you, South American country, military coup – just doesn't sound too promising. Nixon and the CIA? Like they could give a shit. But you expect that Catholics would have some pretense about valuing human rights.
Well, you might be wrong. I get back home and what do I find? That great protector of child molesters, Cardinal Bernard Law, has been chosen to lead a memorial mass for Pope John Paul II. I was already irked by the fact that the press was throwing nothing but softballs the whole time John Paul was feeling poorly and nobody was bringing up the whole child rape scandal, but like I said I had my moratorium on so I pretty much stayed quiet. Pretty much.
Now I don't know exactly what the Catholics think they're saying with this Cardinal Law decision, but I know what it does say:
. Screw the world for thinking it can judge us.
. Screw any government for thinking they can regulate us – we'll do what we damn well please.
. Anyone who was hurt in the process? Here's a big public one for you, for handing us such a mother of a headache and costing us so damn much money.
. We answer to God, whose will we will feel free to interpret at all times for our own benefit.
With this kind of a PR move they must be giving up on the west 'cos this kiddie rape stuff hasn't played real well in the press; both their numbers and their dollars are falling way off in the US. But rather than try to address these image problems, repair broken trust and take responsibility for its actions, the Catholic leadership is choosing the road of most highhanded arrogance, which probably means they'd rather rule autocratically in the third world rather than humble themselves in the first.
Here's hoping a bunch of pissed off, AIDS-ridden countries send 'em packing. One only needs to look at the example of Chile to see the danger of keeping them around.