Little Red Blogger

This blog looks at radical politics(with a libertarian socialist slant), music and culture. Marx to Mises, Girls Aloud to Steve Reich...

Location: Wiltshire, United Kingdom

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Pope Dies, Meditations From a Religious Atheist

So the Pope has finally shuffled off his mortal coil, the Cardinals are gathering with a conclave to be set. Already the crowds are thronging Rome to see his mortal remains to keep him from finally dying. People die twice, once physically and twice in memory. The Pope unlike you or I will have a long half life, will be recorded in history books and the folk memory of the Catholic church.

The Pope's death has perhaps disturbed me in other ways, the treatment given to him, transforming him from man to religious cipher, an Ikon for the faithful to focus on the divine. This type of religious behaviour would seem to be a constant for the faithful of any creed as those witnessing the reaction of Shi'ites to the death of Ayatollah Khomeni would attest. The Pope as an actual living human being has been obscured and ignored his titular role as head of the mother church bleaching his humanity. Like the Shi'ite Ayatollah the Pope becomes an 'object of emulation' for the ordinary believer

For me the structures of the Catholic church tend to mitigate against treating other human beings as equals. The Catholic church in this way reflects its origins in the Roman Empire of late antiquity, authority is top down rather than bottom up, god transmits to the Pope and the Pope then illuminates his Bishops and so on. The hierarchy of the church is to some Catholics a symbolic reflection of the 'natural' hierarchies already extant, the ladder of being from man to God. The late Pope felt at home with these arrangements and exploited the monarchical hierarchy of Roman Catholicism to enforce his conservative theology.

Women, Gay rights and the HIV positive were to suffer most from this medieval intransigence. His latent mediaevalism has however a positive side with the rejection of empty Capitalistic individualism and recognition of the exploitative nature of current corporate arrangements and rights of workers to organise against them. The affinities with socialism are an historical accident of birth rather than an active engagement, Liberation theology was alas too little too late and ignored by the Church and despised by the last Pope.

The Pope then was a contradictory yet consistent religious leader, a fallible human being clothed in the robes of an ancient church, a symbol to the faithful of an order passed and of what might be.