Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Pope and the Predators

My Pope balloon had already begun to deflate days before the news burst that Pope Francis (or his Vatican minions, or his Vatican enemies) sneaked homophobia poster girl Kim Davis across a phalanx of armed militia guarding his Washington embassy digs for a private, top-secret embrace with him.

At first it looked as though the story of the Pope's meeting with the Kentucky clerk who went to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples was either made up out of holy cloth, or wildly exaggerated by her own handlers. But then the Vatican grudgingly admitted that not only had a private meeting indeed taken place, but that the Pope himself had reached out to Kim Davis. And that everybody was sworn to secrecy until Francis was safely back home in Rome.

Holy Hypocrisy!

But what had really precipitated my own descent from the national Papal High was his meeting on Thursday with Stephen Schwarzman in a Harlem parochial school. This multibillionaire vulture capitalist -- whose own personal dogma is More Money, More Power, More-ality -- had awarded millions of dollars (chump change for him) in scholarships to students, and thus bought himself a post-modern plenary indulgence in the form of a greedwashing photo-op of himself being personally blessed by the People's Pope.

If Kim Davis is the poster girl for homophobes, Shwarzman is the poster boy for plutocratic supremacists. He's as much a self-dealing martyr as she is, whining regularly that billionaires like him are the real victims of the class war. He is infamous for having once compared tycoons too-mildly taxed by the government to Jews persecuted by the Nazis.

" Back in 2010," wrote Paul Krugman last year in a column called Paranoia of the Plutocrats, "Stephen Schwarzman, the chairman and chief executive of the Blackstone Group, declared that proposals to eliminate tax loopholes for hedge fund and private-equity managers were 'like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939'".

And from a profile of Schwarzman in New York magazine:
Steve Schwarzman is a perfect poster boy for this age of greed, sharklike, perpetually grinning, a tiny Gordon Gekko without the hair product. In Palm Beach (where he bought a historic landmark house for $20.5 million and tore it down), he eats his three-course lunches (including $400 stone crabs) in less than fifteen minutes and complains about the squeaky rubber soles of a servant’s shoes. Once, in the presence of a Times reporter, he buzzed a man to bring coffee, then stalked off to dress down the servant—“I called you six times.”

The Pope and the Plute (Instagram Photo by #scentfully sue)

  As if pandering to and blessing a financial predator was not enough of a slap in the face of decency, Pope Francis then proceeded to inform the students that the biggest threat to their happiness is not the wealth inequality engendered by robber barons like Schwarzman -- but an invisible demon.

Mephistopheles Flying over Wittenberg (Delacroix)

From the translated transcript of his talk to the assembled poor students, parents, politicians, potentates and plutocrats:
 “Who is the one who sows sadness, who sows distrust, who sows envy, who sows evil desires? What is his name? The devil, the devil! The devil always sows sadness because he doesn't want us happy, he doesn't want us to dream."
Holy Hell!  It brings a whole new meaning to Feeling the Bern. Schwarzman must feel so happy to have been absolved, his guilt deflected to a make-believe boogeyman.

From my feeling of euphoria that this new Pope was someone refreshing and different, it was a jolting downer of a deja vu trip back to my days in Catholic school when Sister Mary Mean would regularly warn us that chewing the communion wafer instead of gagging it down whole was a mortal sin punishable by eternal damnation and third degree burns. Listening to the Pope's spiel at Our Lady Queen of Angels suddenly revived memories of all the hellish episodes that had caused me to become a born-again Lapsed Catholic in the first place.

So regardless of whether the Pope's meeting with Kim Davis turns out to have been a vast right wing media conspiracy, or a set-up job by conservative clerics designed to deliberately harsh his mellow among liberals, I am still sticking with secular humanism. Pope Francis knew full well that the well-dressed oligarchs sitting in the front rows at all his gigs were not ordinary folk.

I've since learned that besides rightly calling capitalism "the dung of the devil," Pope Francis is a die-hard believer in Satan as an actual, living being capable of physically possessing actual, living beings. (Right up there with the belief of the majority of the American people, I might add.) Even some Catholic scholars think that he goes a bit too far with the hell fetish, as he blames everything from the Mexican drug wars to the Middle East conflagrations on Old Nick instead of on Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry and the military-industrial complex. His ascension to the throne of Saint Peter has also sparked a steep rise during the past few years in the number of people seeking exorcisms.

The next thing you know, we'll hear that he had a secret meeting with Linda Blair while he was in town.

Meanwhile, the  establishment has seized upon the Pope's meeting with Kim Davis as the latest political chapter in the Culture Wars saga. New York Times editorialist Francis X. Clines writes,
 In his address to Congress, the pope was diplomatic in alluding to the church’s firm and well known opposition to same-sex marriage, maintaining, “fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family.” But in his decision to seek out Ms. Davis, Pope Francis seemed to suggest the Vatican was willing to get more involved in the politics of the issue. The papal invitation will hardly diminish Ms. Davis’s standing as a national celebrity and rallying figure for those opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage, including some Republican candidates for president who sought to share her spotlight. While in Washington, she confirmed that she had left the Democratic party and become a Republican. Her attorney said they eagerly awaited a photographic record of the papal meeting from the Vatican.
My published response:
 Not only did the Pope meet with Kim Davis, the Vatican decreed that the visit be kept secret until he was safely gone. The cover-up is just as bad as the meeting itself. It makes the Pope look like just another self-interested politician with a hidden agenda. It makes the Church look like just another corporation more concerned about forging a new public image than in rooting out its own greed and corruption and entrenched hypocrisy.

My Pope balloon had already begun to deflate when Francis visited a Harlem school and warned little children about "the devil" instead of warning them about the vulture capitalists and politicians standing right next to them in the room. Too many rich and influential people were able to buy themselves their own P.R. camera time and co-opt the same poor people they regularly ignore or blame in their capacity as power brokers. The Pope should have chased those money changers right out of that school and performed an exorcism of the real-life demon of Wall Street while he was in town. Instead, he sold medieval superstition to little kids. It was cringe-worthy, and anti-Enlightenment.
That being said, I do champion Kim Davis's right to stay strong and believe in whatever she wants. But instead of complaining and making a martyr out of herself, she should resign her public post and find a job where she doesn't have to be in contact with the good people she seems to find so distasteful. A cloister and a vow of silence might be just the ticket.
Thanks to the Pope, the miscreants of politics and finance and war can exorcise themselves of those tired old minima culpas known as "mistakes were made" and "nobody could ever have predicted."  

Now they can just shrug their shoulders, claim that the Devil made them do it, and condemn the rest of us to a living hell while they bribe and stampede their own way into Paradise.

Blessed Steve Schwarzman's $42 million estate (Mephistopheles-eye view)


Will said...

As a former lapsed Catholic and now a proud card-carrying atheist, I was so happy when Pope Week finally ended on Sunday night. I knew it was too good to be true.

Oh well. At least we got this funny pic of Papa Francesco and Kim Davis getting their Titanic on:

Secular Humanist Pearl said...

I had sent in the following comment to the article 'An inconvenient Pope' but the article about Dorothy Day came on and my comment which is apropos to your current column today was probably not seen. I will merely add, that now that the Pope involved himself with someone who was breaking the question of the division of State and Religion becomes even more of concern.
Very great column, Karen. I hope there will be strong opposition comments from the gay community and others.

"I wonder how the Pope's visit under the sponsorship of the President of the United
States affects the concept of the separation of Church and State which is not clearly defined? And how do the allowance of speeches by the Pope which permit statements affecting the operation of the country's affairs by the Congress and President, viewed. His statements when not including his religious views may be acceptable to many, but they were not without the inclusion of his private religious beliefs.
Are there any legal questions involved regarding this visit and how do leaders of other religions or non believers feel about his statements while an invited guest of the nation?

I have not come across any reports along these lines but did read of some protesters being present at his appearances without any explanation of what they were protesting about."

Kate said...

My sentiments entirely. I had a few hopes for Francis...not in the slavishly excited way some "liberals" childishly reacted, but at least in the sense of thinking that this might be a public figure who actually, truly had some honest morality, let alone some clear-eyed understanding and horror at how the world really works these days. Not the first time I was wrong in my life, or at least let down to some extent. Hobnobbing with the big shots in D.C. Philly and NYC...let alone in Rome or other locations around the world. It's all one big club and you and I are not in it(George Carlin). The level of immorality that Francis surrounds himself with, all while retaining a big old smile and a soothing tone, makes me think that Devil he's obsessed over might not have found a door to slip in. In the Catholic view (of which I used to be one like you) - we're all sinners, sure. But to me, your sin becomes greater the more power and money you have...the more opportunity you have the worse your crimes. But of course nowadays, charity, public service, morality and everything else - it's all just a public relations campaign. These things don't actually MEAN anything, they're just words powerful people like to utter to gloss over the rot at the core of their souls.

Pearl said...

Pope's meeting with Kentucky clerk divides public after U.S. visit via @Reuters

Ken Wallace said...

I'm new to this blog but glad I found it. Can't help but grin ear to ear as Karen rips well deserving folks a new one.

I used to live in Kingston, NY. It wan't the end of the world but you could see it from there (Saugerties). If I can improve my writing quality, perhaps more comments will be forthcoming.

Meredith NYC said...

This is outrageous. A friend told me Kim Davis has no understanding of the Constitution. How does the Pope understand or interpret ‘conscienscious objector’? That’s his basis for telling Kim to ‘stay strong’—per nyt.

All that hoopla, expense and media coverage of the great pope, and he tells her to stay strong. Did he tell any right to lifers the same? When will we find out about that?

Andy Borowitz had just written a satire, saying the Pope met with various Americans who “refused to do their jobs”. Like, how ridiculous! This must have been before news of the Kim/Pope meeting. Reality is catching up with Borowitz satire.

They arranged this stunning event before the Pope’s visit. What started it off?

The Pope got millions of adoring crowds, waiting for hours, and 24/7 TV coverage tracking his every move and utterance for 3 days, with media commentary.

(Borowitz also said that Americans thank the Pope for knocking Trump off the news for 3 days.)

Cameras on national news followed his planes taking off and landing, his helicoptors, cars, and escorts. (‘his plane is making its approach to JFK!’)

The Pope got attention and respect in Congress and UN beyond that of any state leader or certainly any religious clergy in history, I’d think. And then he meets with this little clerk who feels morally superior about defying the laws of the US in her govt job? Who was in jail? She had tears she said....boy, it must’ve felt great...the experience of a lifetime.

The pope’s trip is going to end up being a setback for US civil rights in the land of the free, instead of a supporter of it. The religious rw will use and generalize this to other situations---whatever they don’t like. Already the ultra religious cry victimhood when secular govt tries to interfere with the them imposing on the rest of us. Now they have a holy boost to ‘stay strong’.

The anti planned parenthood congress radicals are now likely more energized.

Well at least Francis did speak against the death penalty, while visiting the only modern nation that hasn’t yet banned it.
We are ‘progressive and enlightened’ because at least our executions are not televised.

Meredith NYC said...

The latest school massacre bloodbath is now consuming the news, with the usual reactions of horror, and phrases and quotes from officials. Will the NRA defenders use the Pope’s words—-to‘stay strong’ against govt interference in gun rights? Defend against govt control of guns for independent, self reliant, law abiding citizens who only want to defend themselves? Who are conscientious objectors to gun control?

Stev-o said...

Well, I for one gave pause a few times while Francis was hogging the web. I was hopeful. But that "hopeful" feeling, that euphoria that I remember feeling while watching Michelle and Barack dancing at one of the inaugural balls, I actually got choked-up, I did, because at only 52 years-of-age, I thought I would see a female president before I saw a black president. It took longer for me to get over that euphoria with Mr. President Peace Prize but that papal euphoria lasted just a few days. Same old. Same old. Hopefully we will elect another man in November 2016. Feel the Bern - 24 million to 26 million - Feel the Bern.

Valerie said...

I must admit, I had a lot of hope. Like it or not, religion has a lot of influence in the U.S. and I had hoped that the Pope was leading Christians away from the cult of consumerism and in the direction of social and economic justice. I had even a bit of hope that other religious leaders, not to be left behind looking like the hypocrites they are, might jump on the band wagon. As long as religion is co-opted by the Republican mentality of selfishness and punishment, many Christians will self-righteously continue on as they have been.

I am disappointed - and I suppose I am disappointed in myself that I was taken in. I had so hoped that the pendulum had swung as far right as it was going to swing.

But alas, the TPP, like the zombie that won't die, is looking like it will finally pass in Atlanta - resulting in untold suffering.

And because the U.S. has squandered all its money on war and homeland security, it has let our infrastructure crumble to the extent that water privatization is now on the table.That's just what we need, multi-national corporations with the power to control our water supply. Great! The U.S. is teetering on the kind of society and economy that Bolivia was battling not so very long ago.

Jay–Ottawa said...

What a pity. Every time I get hopeful that the world and its ways are about to be turned around, as I was, say, on 20 January 2009, the balloon bursts, the cake flops in the oven, the wind is taken out of my sails. So it was with the Francis visit. He outdid Benedict XVI in both his religious and political ineptitude. He was ill advised to embrace so warmly Davis and Dives if he ever hoped to impress us with a godly standard and a more generous way of life.

As an old history major, I was appalled when Netanyahu was invited to address Congress. Then to follow up with a prominent religious figure like the pope? Pearl's right: that too was inappropriate for a supposed secular democracy where it is best for both church and state to stay far apart.

There's an explanation for Francis's stroking of Davis and Dives. Conservative Catholics were resentful of the pope's liberal words and actions. So he had to make it up to them, the values crowd. And he sure did. As for the rich man, I understand that the Catholic church in the US is the biggest source of funds for the Vatican. Takes a lot of dough to maintain the hierarchy in style in the center of an expensive world city like Rome. So you go out of your way to thank the rich who deposit lots of bling in the collection plate.

As everybody seems to be saying here, we're worse off than before Francis came to visit. Superstition got a boost. Rightwing bigots got a pat on the back. And little was demanded from the rich man by the Vicar of Christ.

Jay–Ottawa said...

The plot thickens. Maybe one of Satan's agents slipped Davis into the receiving line, the pope unaware he was being dropped into a minefield by his own handlers. The current Vatican spin on the Davis meeting is that he was set up by the papal nuncio, a seasoned diplomat who is said to be old guard. Who knows, maybe the nuncio himself was not the culprit but was also set up by a zealous American retro-bishop––John Paul II & Benedict XVI elevated so many of them––who knew this incident would pull the rug out from under Francis.

Not to worry. Pope Francis can, with actions not the words of spokesmen, put this matter––and others––to rest by canning the plotters of the Davis surprise, updating church views about where God allows Cupid to zing his arrows, and, most important of all, asking a hell of a lot more of those plutocratic camels who will need a hand some day in threading their way through the eye of a needle.

Meredith NYC said...

Jay....that's a great line....'where god allows cupid to zing his arrows'.

The Vatican is reported to say the Pope’s meeting with Davis “should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.” LA Times.

The pope also met with a same sex couple---a former student and his partner and some friends, per article. W. Post.

Meredith NYC said...

Can't resist sharing this priceless comment to Times article re pope and Davis! Worthy of Borowitz.

NYT Pick
Raymond BKLYN 7 hours ago

"I never had spiritual relations with that woman. Ms. Davis."

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