I'm not partial to popes in general, but the current pope, in particular, is a dick. For the record, I don't care what a 79-year-old, cross-dressing former Hitler youth says about anything. But since he's the pope, plenty of people do care what Benedict XVI says, especially the world's 1 billion Catholics. That's a whole lot of people, and nowadays even more people than that care what Il Papa says-because what he says, rightly or wrongly, just might get people killed.
Two weeks ago, His Holiness blathered on to an assembled throng at Germany's University of Regensburg about faith, reason and other stuff he believes. I missed that lecture, which is a shame, really, because I'm sure it was riveting. In his remarks, he worked in a quote from the 14th-century Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Palaeologus. Yes, he cited an authority from the Late Middle Ages. Quoth the pope, "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman."
Wow! I, myself, have some unkind things to say about the Prophet Mohammed. But then I'm not the leader of one of the world's major superstitions. If I were to opine unfavorably about the founder of Islam, the worst thing that might happen would be that I might have to share a room with Salman Rushdie in an undisclosed location outside of London. But if the pope says something hateful like that, a gaggle of Muslim extremists might kill a nun in Somalia (they did, actually). Furthermore, the sensibilities of millions of unstable people who had just as soon blow something up as slap a woman for showing her ankle might get offended, and those very folks might, just possibly, feel even more certain than they already were that the West simply does not, will not and cannot understand their convictions.
It appears that the pope regrets having poped off thus because he up and apologized not once, but twice in the week following his remarks. Ordinary people like you and me are accustomed to apologizing. I say "I'm sorry" nearly as often as I say "I'll have another." The pope, however, is not ordinary people. The pope is infallible. The pope saying "I'm sorry" is kind of like the mayor meeting me for happy hour-it should happen, but it practically never does.
So I was touched, actually, by Big Ben's show of papal contrition. It was moving. I wiped a tear from my cheek when I learned that the pope was "deeply sorry" that his remarks were misunderstood. Misunderstood?! Dude, you told people that the Prophet Mohammed brought nothing but evil and inhuman things to the world. How can that be misunderstood? If you're going to apologize, apologize for being understood. But heck, as long as you're apologizing, there are a few more things you might want to own up to.
You could start by sincerely apologizing for the sanctioned pedophilia of your priests over the past half-century and for the systematic cover-up of their transgressions that ultimately traces all the way to the Vatican. You could apologize for that. It would be nice.
You could go on and apologize for the Inquisition, that splendid episode in the careers of your infallible predecessors that did so much to advance human dignity. The Church no doubt saved countless souls with thumbscrews and the rack. But torture isn't nice. Don't be like Don Rumsfeld-apologize already.
Since you're apologizing, you might also want to apologize for the Crusades. Lots of Muslims misunderstood those. I know what you're thinking: They started it. That's debatable. What is not debatable is the fact that 200 years of war to prop up Byzantium and advance papal secular authority in Europe and the Middle East deserves at least an acknowledgment, if not an apology.
If you feel up to it, you could apologize to the indigenous people of Central and South America whose cultures were obliterated and whose children were enslaved to make the New World safe for oligarchy. I was in Mexico recently. Man, oh man, have you got some apologizing to do.
And you really should apologize to me for an ex-wife and four ex-girlfriends who grew up in your church. When it comes to screwing up a woman's head, Catholicism is unmatched. Maybe it's something about me, I don't know. I do know that I keep falling for women who spent their formative years kneeling and saying, "Forgive me, Father." I know you don't have kids yourself, but here's a tip-guilt and shame are not the only tools in a parent's toolbox. You owe me an apology, all right, but I don't think I'll ask for it. I don't want to seem selfish.
Finally, however, there is one last thing for which you ought to sincerely apologize to all of us: tainted spinach. What in the world is that? We're talking about spinach that gives you fatal dysentery. No way that's acceptable under the watchful eye of a benevolent God. I figure the Big Fella must have been on a break when somebody doused our spinach with E. coli. That's the only way it makes sense to me. And in case you didn't get the memo, when God's out, you're in charge. That's how it works. So although you probably had nothing to do with it, you're still responsible because you should have been watching.
But you weren't watching, were you? You were just sitting on your great big chair, reading esoteric remarks to a crowd of soft-handed German academics and telling them how Mohammed brought only evil and inhuman things to the world. Well, brother, while you were screwing around, our spinach got tainted and that's not OK. It's fine and good that you apologized to the Muslims, but you really need to apologize to the rest of us before the Vegan Liberation Brigade blows up a cathedral. Say you're sorry. It will make everyone feel better.
Tony Phillips blogs at www.fifthavenuegazette.com. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and editor@SDcitybeat.com.