“This new millennium already marked by killings is merely a sign of what Conrad called our miserable ingenuity. How we love to create Devils and Gods and bloody rivers of ways to get their almighty attention. What we turn away from, in both our enemies and ourselves, is the vast continuum of human frailty.”

Bosch. The Ship of Fools.

Faith is sometimes perceived as a commodity, and in a market of commodities, the little believer, the small trader,the retail investor in faith who pledges his soul as collateral, often gets fleeced….” The Devil is just doing his job”, ( Father Gabriele Amorth )… ”But the ark of the “one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” of Rome moves on, “timeless and immutable.” It will move through and beyond the present squalid controversy, like a great ship pushing through narrow contaminated waters until the last, sordid details from the furthest corner of the Catholic world have been churned up and have assaulted the senses of the just. This is as it should be.” ( Conrad Black )

illuminated manuscript bible

Boys in Holloko, outside Budapest, recently threw water as part of the “Watering of the Girls,” a local Easter tradition. The activity is part of a fertility ritual rooted in Hungarian tribe’ pre-Christian past, going back at least until the second century A.D. In light of the latest, but surely not the last scandal to touch the Vatican, one could consider paganism as an option.

“Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the idea that life is serious….“If the unexamined life is not worth living, the unexamined past is not worth possessing; it bears fruit only by being held continuously up to the light, and is as changeable and as full of surprises, pleasant and unpleasant, as the future”( Brendan Gill ) If life is not serious, the question could be asked about why atrocious things keep happening to people perceived as innocent. In particular the latest, in an almost chronic series of revelations about the monstrous crimes of priests and the absence of punishment and justice. However, its likely not coincidence that the latest scandal installment appears just before Easter. As Jacques Derrida would have said, the context of a Pope and that of a common person would be irreconcilable, or almost so, in terms of mutual coherence.

Traditional Easter celebration. Holloko, 100 km east of Budapest

Certainly, language can reveal more than it intends, and the Pope’s misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church conveys an almost paranoid fear of scandal itself. All the large monotheistic, patriarchal religions seem to operate on premises that resemble those of large multi-national corporations; wait until a problem is so large that it can’t be covered up before recourse to some action, generally through the use of passive verbs which obscures by ignoring the identity and sources of those responsible. The passive encourages evasion and clouds meaning, especially when used aggressively and persistently. In fact, all the religions and their strains and offshoots resemble participants in a Stanley Milgram experiment; and give them power and authority over an individual’s life, they likely would go all the way up the dial in inflicting punishment;except in the Milwaukee scandal, the victims were real, and not professional actors.

Much like interpreting the Bible itself, the Vatican’s latest pronouncements leave only a sketchy and murky idea of what happened through an absence of specific details which undercut reassurances that ”things” are on the mend. Jimmy Breslin, on his book ”The Church that Forgot Christ”:

”A couple of things did it,” Breslin tells me in his gargling-with-glass Queens accent. “I think, most of all, it was reading the transcripts of Cardinal Egan, when he was the bishop up in Bridgeport [Conn.], quibbling over the classification of a young man who was abused.” That would be Cardinal Edward Egan, who was appointed archbishop of New York, and hence de facto leader of the American church, despite his indirect implication in an especially seamy scandal at his former diocese in Connecticut.

“They were in court over the issue of — did the priest bite his penis or did the kid bite the priest’s penis? It was confusing,” Breslin says drily. Egan objected to the opposing attorney’s reference to the young man in the case as a child, since he had been a college freshman at the time. “He was testifying, Egan, and he wondered whether they should call this kid a child or a young man, because he was a student at Sacred Heart College. Basically, he was quibbling over the classification of a young man who was involved in a sexual act with a priest.” ( )

It should be noted that although Breslin hammers the power structure of the Church from the pope on down, he draws wonderful portraits of dedicated clerics like Father John Powis of St. Barbara’s in Brooklyn, who covers all bases for his parishioners from the spiritual to stopping evictions, and Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, who heads Brooklyn’s Hour Children program, which helps women coming out of prison. This book angers people, and disturbing though it is, it is not likely unique to the Catholic faith and is rooted in an even larger epidemic of family violence and sexual abuse from which it seems easier to sacrifice a few Priests than undergo a more profound reflection on repressed recall of abominations within the family.

”The Rossano Gospels, preserved in the Cathedral of Rossano (Calabria), Southern Italy, were written following the reconquest of Italian peninsula from the Ostrogoths by the Byzantine Empire, after a war which began in 535 and ended decisively in 553. The codex includes the earliest surviving evangelist portrait, showing Mark writing on a scroll.”

”What is noteworthy in this torrent of alleged and, in many cases, undoubted, abuse, in secretive Catholic institutions, is not that these ghastly incidents occurred, but the unevenness of their occurrence and the clumsiness of the high official responses, and some of the antics of the Church’s ancient foes….These derelictions that have come to light are shameful, disgusting and outrageous, but they are not especially surprising. All of the mo

popes and curial cardinals, and surely most of the bishops, must have had some general awareness of these acts. I suppose it is understandable, but not so easily excusable, that they were not immediately uplifted, as the rest of us are supposed to be, by the possibilities of confession, repentance and the shriven joy of mending one’s ways….

The failure of the popes to order an audit of these matters throughout the Church, to impose a remedial regime, to punish and reward, atone and make restitution pre-emptively of the inevitable arrival of secular law-enforcers, bus-loads of incentivized and spontaneous litigants (many after mnemonic feats of precise, distant recollection), and the teeming assault squads of the media, was unpardonable. It was that worst of acts, both immoral and mistaken. ( Black )

”The Syriac Bible of Paris, an illuminated Bible written in Syriac, is thought to have been made in northern Mesopotamia. The manuscript has 246 extant folios. Large sections of text and the accompanying illustrations are missing. The folios are 312 by 230 mm. In the archaic style, the text is written in three columns.”

Point made. Certainly the Secular Church of Self Professed Saints and Prophets has swallowed the bait, and pushed dogmatism and narrow mindedness to its most numbing conclusions and conveniently focuses the issue on a target which is a prime example, but hardly an exclusive one of  fear, willful ignorance and arrogance of office. Theologically, Hitchens and the atheist priests situate themselves on a celestial pinnacle occupied by The Market; signified by both the mystery that enshrouds it and the reverence it inspires. This Market has divine attributes, and in its econological rhetoric there is no inconceivable limit on an inexorable ability to convert creation into commodities. Human relationships to all natural elements can be reduced to a market value. Even faith, where you don’t have to cover your short positions.

Frans Huys. Sloth

Conrad Black: ”He ( Hitchens) reminds me of the young Mussolini shouting to his followers: “There is no God! If there is, may he strike me down now! You have five minutes … Time’s up God!” I have often wondered if the Duce thought of that bravura as, bearded and hiding in a German army uniform among real Wehrmacht evacuees in an open truck, he tried to flee Italy at the end of the war, before he was apprehended, quietly led off the truck, was perfectly docile while briefly detained and summarily executed, and was then displayed, hanging upside down over a Milan gas station, his corpse desecrated by the Italian masses who had screamed their adulation of him for 20 years before.

Everyone’s time will be up, but not the human spirit’s; nor that of its greatest ecclesiastical trustee per omnia saecula saeculorum.”

Bosch. Garden of Earthly Delights. detail.

The operative deadly sin appears to be not greed, but rather sloth. It was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who made sloth into the first and greatest of all sins. In emulation of the Biblical Book of Job, the Lord says to Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Prologue in Heaven:
I never have hated your ilk;
Of all the Spirits who deny,
I find the scamp the least tedious.
Man’s endeavor tends all too easily towards slumber;
What he wishes for first of all is unconditional rest.
Therefore I am wont to assign him a companion
Who provokes and must act and appear as a Devil.

The devil somehow fits into the great scheme of providence. The world deserves just that sort of imp for its sloth and complacency and humbug. If the devil is loose in the credit markets, at least one can say that they had it coming. Of the other diabolical variety, the rebel angel, we had quite enough in the form of communism and fascism, and I shudder to think of its return. Hitler and Joseph Stalin were anything but mediocre. They very nearly took over the world. No one deserved that.

Who started the global credit crisis? I don’t mean to wax mystical over mundane issues in the markets, but I think that the devil did. He is just doing his job. ( Spengler )

Bosch. Seven Deadly Sins. detail. 1480

I’m beginning to believe the death of Daniel Pearl, like the attacks on the Twin Towers, is less an act of terrorism against American policy and people, than a kind of earthquake or hurricane, an “act of god.” Not them against us, just Us. There is a vast flaw in our species, a failure of the human imagination, that deludes us into creating these monsters and Gods from mere humans, and destroying them in the mistaken belief we have achieved something. ( Kelly Cogswell )

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