UPDATE: This post was originally titled “Benedict: The Penultimate Pope?” and makes reference to the Prophecy of the Popes (see link below) as well as the real inexorable demise of the Roman Catholic Church. The Wikipedia page about the prophecy has already been updated, less than an hour after a cardinal who appears to have suffered a stroke made the announcement. Wouldn’t you know it, the prophecy got it wrong. To begin with, Frank’s chosen name isn’t Peter (conspiracy against prophecy?), and he’s from Argentina, a looong way from Rome. But wait! A last name like Bergoglio means that Frank is actually Italian, i.e. Roman, as are many Argentines. Here’s the text predicting what the last pope will be:
In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit… Peter the Roman, who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations, and when these things are finished, the city of seven hills [i.e. Rome] will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people. The End.
Don’t give up hope, yet; Frank hasn’t been crowned. There’s still might be a Pete! Anyway, enough silliness, here’s my original post:
I didn’t realize until surfing the clicks the other day that there is a medieval prophecy that predicts all of the popes and their characteristics. It predicts them cryptically, of course, because that is the way of these things; the only equal to prophecy in hocus pocusry is religion itself. It appears that Benedict is the next-to-last pope, which means we might see the end of the papacy, and by extension the end of the Roman Catholic Church itself, within my lifetime.
Well, I’ll be darned. I suppose if they told me ten years ago we’d have a black president within my lifetime I might have guffawed, thinking about all those people who voted for Bush—twice—tolerating such a thing… nah. Never happen.
Of course, the Prophecy of the Popes is as valid as the Mayan apocalypse, which I’m sort of sorry we survived, the human race being the scourge of the planet and all. Still, it is within the realm of possibility. If the Church keeps up this pace of disintegration, one possible trajectory is complete destruction within a few decades… nah. Never happen. If it does happen, I vow right here and now I’ll receive final absolution on my deathbed, which is actually a trick vow because in theory there won’t be anyone around qualified to administer it.
Oh, wouldn’t that be heaven?
The rise of atheism does seem to be meteoric. The Facebook page with the name “God,” who is actually a snarky, religio-swatting atheist, has close to half a million followers, and is only behind George Takei’s—hardly the most God-loving person himself—in terms of popularity. Forget behemoth influencer sites like Reddit, and 4Chan, and… like I said, it’s a meteoric rise.
This confluence with pedophilia scandals is causing a perfect storm for the Church. According to an article in Slate regarding Benedict and his myriad failures, the largest religious affiliation in the U.S. after Catholic is Ex-Catholic. As my parents’ generation passes, Ex-Catholic will become the more numerous. This is mostly because of general disenchantment with the Church, its policies, its insane, North Korean-ish adherence to antiquated doctrine and equally insane refusal to adapt to the needs of modern mankind. Most importantly, according to the Slate piece,
Two-thirds of U.S. seminaries operating in 1965 had closed by 2002. During those same years the number of seminarians dropped from 49,000 to 4,700—nearly 90 percent. In Europe, the decline is even more dramatic.”
These figures are key, and the most startling evidence that we might indeed be looking at a more apocalyptic sequence of events than might be believed. It is this drastic ninety-percent drop in staff, together with the ridiculous celibacy stipulation for the clergy, that forced senior management like Benedict to ignore heinous crimes being committed against children in parishes across the country and around the world. If you get rid of the pedos, who’s left to open the circus every Sunday and perform magic tricks?
Unless a priest suffers classic schizophrenic delusions and hallucinations, what sane Str8 would be drawn to a life of celibacy that begins when he’s in the prime of his youth? American culture, even in the heartland, would be scornful of this path in life, to say the least. It’s suspicious and unmanly. And at this juncture, you would be suspected of being a pervert simply by association with an organization that is synonymous with creepy acts against kids and of covering them up—at least Penn State took swift action against Sandusky and immediately de-canonized Joe Paterno. The Church just made it worse for itself by making its senior management accessories to felony crimes.
This leaves Gheys to run the ship, pretty much. A straight friend of mine now in his seventies was once part of the Franciscan monastic order, but had to leave “because I just couldn’t take the homosexuality any more.” However, there aren’t a lot of us Gheys who want to be stigmatized, either; we’re just starting to shuck off that image, thank you very much. There are easier ways to make a living these days than turning wine into blood, bread into flesh, and more accepted, even respectable means of living with your boyfriend than covertly in the parish house behind a fake stone wall of sanctity.
As gay director Joel Schumacher once advised Will & Grace creator Max Mutchnick about including Gheys on TV, “Don’t let anyone in the audience think about butt fucking and you’ll be fine.” That was the ostrich-head-in-the-sand attitude in most parishes all over the world—the audience didn’t want to know what the local priest really did. He was above sex. Pfft.
The rare occasions that a Catholic priest somewhere knocked up a female member of a congregation, or even better was discovered to have a whole family on the side, I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard the news; at least in one niche of that vast, incense-laden chamber of horrors that is the Catholic Church—near whose bosom across the Tiber I grew up, and in whose dank, creepy catacombs beneath Rome I caught a wretched case of pneumonia as a child—there was one parish where the altar boys were safe.
Indeed, we Gheys have always known about our sisters in cassocks, we just couldn’t make too much of an issue about it because it makes people think about butt fucking. But there was no denial for us, ever, especially for those Gheys who had sex with the local priest when they were young. To be fair, Catholic priests aren’t alone in this—Anglicans/Episcopalians are almost as bad. There’s many a Protestant queen loves himself a good vogue up the aisle to the apse in robes, where he can stand above a groveling congregation, composed of many of the same types who teased and bullied him as a child, and spread his arms and for an hour or so channel the might of a supernatural, omniscient, wrathful being he honestly believes is “the spirit.”
When I first wrote the script for my film Hatter—which among other things turns morality on its head and spins it—by a weird twist of fate it ended up in the hands of a gaggle of flaming Anglican ministers down in Laguna Beach, CA. With my bemused permission, it soon made the rounds online via emails, bouncing around various rectories from L.A. to New York to London. As part of the CCs on the email chain, I got a peek inside the lonely, snobbish, often malicious mind of the gay priest—one of them even feminized God and habitually called ‘her’ a ‘bitch.’ It got so bizarre that I had to request the priest I first gave the script to that I be taken off the chain.
I have said before about Michael Jackson that we Gheys still own him, despite his pedophilia. We have to. We own the pedo priests as well, but only inasmuch as Str8s need to own their side of sex crimes when such things happen to one of theirs. And, yes, for the time being, until a wedding is just a wedding and not a “gay wedding,” there are sides; that wall between us is still there, although it will dissolve all by itself in due course.
Just as we own the pedo priests, we call them out for who they are: Corrupt old queens in silk gowns sloshing about in the swill of their pageantry, men who have trumped up a false reason for their own existence, inventing counterfeit employment for themselves as well as securing a safe place at the very pinnacle of respectability in most societies. Despicable.
In the comments sections of news sites around the Interweb, there have been the occasional squeaks from Italy, one of which pleaded for compassion for the Italian people, for whom the Church is so important. As someone who grew up there, I can say the relationship is symbiotic, and it would be catastrophic for the Italian economy if the Church were to vanish.
The Church has also permeated the culture with more superstitions than you will see in a country outside of the Indian subcontinent, which is one of the main reasons Italians and Indians get along so well, another being a chronic addiction to organized chaos. I know that as a teen transitioning back to the States, I had to consciously break myself of habits like making the horn sign with my index and little fingers, touching my testicles and saying “tiè” to ward off the evil eye if a friend mentioned something that portended ill, or stopping still and waiting for someone else to walk ahead and shatter the invisible line of bad luck if a black cat crossed my path, and on and on.
I imagine watching the Holy See collapse must have many Roman men clutching their balls with finger-horns.
The Church is important for Rome in particular, out of all cities in Italy, just as the monarchy is important for London: HUGE tourism revenue. But that’s too bad. Even as the head of the Church of England, the Queen isn’t evil; on the contrary, the British are lucky to have such a wise and capable head of state. In the U.S., we are only intermittently that lucky, thanks to vast swaths of our nation that are unfairly and disproportionately represented both in our wacky Electoral College and in Congress because of district gerrymandering… Okay, I’m way off topic.
But Catholics have it the worst: there has no such thing as a good pope in the modern era. There can’t be because of what they are teaching and protecting—it’s innately evil and inhuman. Whatever problems Benedict was saddled with he inherited from his predecessor, like Obama. But he was too old and frail to meet the challenge, which is likely a lost cause, anyway. Even if this next pope can somehow manage to right this sinking Titanic for a little while, go under it will eventually, just like the pagan religion it once replaced.
When the end comes, gone too will be Rome’s second great empire, for an empire it has been, albeit mostly cultural, not physical. Like I said, I think it will take a while, more than a single final pope, as the prophecy claims. Great upheavals are coming in the meantime; for instance, I don’t know how much longer the American Catholic Church can stay in the fold. Still, those wily Romans should have a generation or two to come up with a new way to rule and influence huge portions of the world.
Might I suggest organized power yoga and smoothies?