Better Late Than Never
Marchipelago 14, 41 A.B.
No, no entry yesterday. I got sidetracked when I accidentally agreed
to serve as referee at a wrestling match between a heffalump and a jabberwocky
and made the mistake of doing too good a job. As a consequence, I
was strong-armed into umpiring a pissing contest between a snark and a
velveteen rabbit. I made the mistake of doing THAT so well that I
was then forced at gunpoint to serve as judge at a tag team bake-off tournament
which pitted renegade Munchkins against a sedate group of seeing eye leprechauns
in town just to practice the fine art of looking around.
Thank goodness I screwed that up enough to be in bed by 6 pm and
asleep by 10....
If it will make you feel any better, feel free to think of this entry as
yesterday's and today's as the one left undone by the press of events.
Or do what I do and mutter "Better late than never" and move along before
you draw the attention of the police.
All of which serves to remind me that the real subject that I want to address
in this entry (whether today's or yesterday's) is the apology which Pope
John Paul II made Sunday for the sins of his organization.
But since this matter is really between just him and me, I think I'll write
him a letter instead.
Sorry. If you're looking for a real entry, looks like you're gonna
have to wait for another day.
I know how you feel, since it looks like I myself am gonna have to wait
at least as long for a real apology....
Dear John Paul II -
Hi! How's tricks?
Ok, I know you're a busy kind of guy so I'll say the weather here is swell,
hope yours is too, and get right to the point.
I've been reading and thinking about that apology you and your bishops
and cardinals made on Sunday last (commonly known as Adar II 6, 5760) and
On the one hand I'm pleased as punch since the worst apology is always
better than the best "I consign thee to the flames of Hell forever and
ever in the name of an all-merciful God!" condemnation.
On the other hand, "HUH?"
That is to say, it raises certain questions in my mind.
For instance -
1) If the Church is infallible, what's there to apologize and ask
I know that must seem like a very naive question to someone as learned
and well-dressed as yourself, but try as I might and read what I will,
I just can't quite fathom what's going on here, let alone get my clothes
Near as I can tell, your organization distinguishes between dogma and actions.
And it appears to claim that - while dogma is infallible - the behavior
of people acting with that dogma in mind may not always be infallible
- or even very healthy for innocent bystanders.
Alternatively, your organization seems to hold that its leader, the Pope
(you!), is infallible - but only when It Really Counts. And
somehow or other among the things that don't really count is torture, arranged
death - that sort of thing.
Or - alternatively again - you believe that while the Church can
do no wrong (being infallible and all), the people who make up the Church
can in practice do lots of absent-minded (and even some rather naughty)
"things" (being mere staffers - and temps at that).
None of which makes a whole lot of sense to me. In fact - if I may
be honest (and I think you'd want me to be - right?) - it seems to me to
be something of a shell game, with the little peas of fallibility, infallibility,
responsibility, and irresponsibility being shifted around when I ain't
looking - and even when I'm staring at the proceedings, all bug-eyed, as
is my congenital wont.
Was I absent the day the pamphlets which cover all this were handed
out or what?
I mean, what's the point of having an infallible dogma, an infallible Pope,
or an infallible Church if any or all three of these things can still
give rise to such absurdly fallible actions as it has? It's like
having a perfect car and muddy roads. Or perfect roads and a Pinto.
Certainly I can imagine a better system than this, and I'm an idiot.
Do you believe your God is less capable than an idiot?
Do you really believe that universal atheism would have led to even
worse horrors over the course of the last 1000 or so years than this system
you call your own??
2) If you really do need to apologize and ask forgiveness
for the past actions of your organization, how do we know that a future
Pope won't come along and apologize and ask forgiveness for your apology
Think about it. First your organization says "X." Then it says
"Oops - X was bad. Sorry!" Knowing nothing else about X, one
thing is clear: The credibility of your organization is shot.
Quite apart from the fact that it said "X" for hundreds of years.
Quite apart from the fact that many of the people around you today apparently
think your saying "Oops - X was bad. Sorry!" is a bad idea.
The fact is, I must now step outside your organization to evaluate it.
I mean, unless it is bought out by Microsoft, its entire management sacked,
and a new and improved set of bylaws filed with the Securities and Exchange
Commission, its inconsistent pronouncements simply force me to go
elsewhere if I want to avoid absurdity and whim.
Lucky for me, I was already there to begin with, eh?
3) What's with the euphemisms?
You say "On various occasions in the past millennium, dubious methods have
been used to obtain just results."
You also refer to "sins committed in the service of truth."
Among those "dubious methods" others are having to guess you're referring
to: the Crusades, the Inquisition, burning witches at the stake, and the
forced conversion of native populations.
Among the "sins committed in the service of truth": centuries of persecution
of Gypsies and Jews, and the subjugation of women and minorities.
As one writer for Slate said (more or less), "If I talked like that
to my therapist, she'd tell me to go to my room until I was ready to really
face my problems and genuinely felt sorry for the pain I've caused."
My own, somewhat less polished formulation of the same idea would be: "So
Clinton is auditioning to be one of your speechwriters after he leaves
office, eh? You know, for just a few dollars more, you could have
the guy responsible for Malcolm in the Middle. Get him - his
humor's much fresher."
4) And speaking of the Crusades, the Inquisition, the persecution
of Gypsies and Jews, the burning of witches, the forced conversion of natives,
the subjugation of women, etc. ...
Are we really to believe that God went from having incredibly strict "tough
love" punishments for fruit filchers (i.e., expulsion from Paradise, having
to toil for a living, pain, disease, old age, death) to not even having
a "3 strikes and you're out" rule with regard to genocide?
5) Who are you asking forgiveness from??
Again, forgive me for being dense, but... did you really mean to ask God
for forgiveness and not the people who actually suffered from your organization's
actions? Maybe you could at least bend a bit and ask for forgiveness
from their Gods? As it is, it seems... well, it seems as if
the neighbor boy has just killed my mother, raped my wife, stolen my goods,
left me blind and then scurried home to ask his father to forgive
him. I'm glad he feels the need to ask at all, but please - forgive
me if I'm not terribly moved when the boy comes back to tell me, "Dad says
it's ok so long as I don't do it again."
Which prompts me to ask -
6) If you really want to make a clean breast of things and let the
chips fall where they may, have you considered turning yourself in to The
Hague for an impartial trial?
at first glance it might appear difficult to round up a jury of your peers,
it just might turn out to be easier to round up 12 men who think they're
infallible and that all truth flows from them than you imagine. Why,
I bet my own wife could give you 8 names right off the top of her head!
And what's the worst that can happen? You might be ordered to make
Or perform community service.
Or give a few lectures warning other, younger Churches not to make the
same mistakes yours did.
If you're really sorry and an impartial justice system decides that
this is what justice demands, you'd want to do it - right?
I mean, this isn't just some PR scam you're running in an attempt to out-perform
the Baptist, Mormon, Islamic, and Hindu competition in emerging Third World
markets, is it??
John, John, John...
We gotta talk, man.
Have your people call my people and we'll settle all this over lunch -
We're in the book.
I mean, the Yellow Pages. Look under "Rationalists."
After all, you speak - what? Sixteen languages? Seventeen?
Certainly I can get through to you in at least one of them.
You're not even bothering to read a word of this even though I read everything
I could find about what you said, are you?
Fine. Be that way.
But if you do turn yourself in to The Hague now, please ask Jimmy Swaggart
to be a character witness for you - not me.
Seems I have quite a bit of work to do on my Jestermobile this millennium.
At least you're not throwing rocks at me now like that streetcorner angel
did when I tried talking sense to her, I'll give you that much.
And I'd even tell you I liked your hat much better than hers if
I didn't think it'd go right to your head....
Back To An Entry From My
Forward To Yet Another Entry
Far Future Jesters Will One Day
Beg Forgiveness For - If Only To
Get A Break From That Damn Juggling
(©Now by Dan "Don't Shoot Me, I'm
Only The Piano Player" Birtcher)