Out of “Horrible Inconsistencies,” a New Pope?

“I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of the land.

English: Portrait of Frederick Douglass as a y...

English: Portrait of Frederick Douglass as a younger man (Photo:Wikipedia) Douglass was an American abolitionist, editor, orator, author, statesman and reformer.

Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of ‘stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.’ I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which everywhere surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. . . .

The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together. The slave prison and the church stand near each other. The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time. The dealers in the bodies and souls of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other—devils dressed in angels’ robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.”

― Frederick Douglass, 1818-1895. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

The circumstances are different but these words from an earlier time are worth recalling as we contemplate the pomp and pageantry of Pope Benedict XVI’s departure and the grand spectacle of the gathering cardinals. As the cardinals arrive for the papal conclave, there  hangs over them all the shadow of complicity in the cover up and perpetuation of sexual abuse and sordid financial dealings that are only just beginning to unravel.

Oblivious to—or insufficiently humbled—by the “horrible inconsistencies” of today in which they are mired, the cardinals will vote to choose as the next Pope, one from among their circle of red.

As long as we hope for a Vatican Spring led by a new pope from amongst the current cardinals, we neglect the only real chance to reinvent the church: from the pews.  The church is ours to change.

It should not be acceptable to attach words like “palace” to “apostle,” or obscure so completely the radical simplicity of the Gospel message by the glitz and gaudiness of ceremony and the perversions of power.

Can we even conceive of Jesus in an “Apostolic Palace,” waited on by a butler who might bring him his red Prada shoes and gorgeous vestments?

It’s up to us in the pews to say “Enough.”

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5 comments on “Out of “Horrible Inconsistencies,” a New Pope?
  1. John Webster says:

    Wow V powerful V Douglass and Morais!

    Loved it.

  2. Ann Clem says:

    It all sound great, that it’s up to us in the pews, to make change happen. Trouble is…the biggest thing we can do is to make our money talk. STOP supporting the organization! The hierarchy simply doesn’t listen or act on the reality of life.

    • Yes, Ann, I agree. The money is key–but I don’t want those who depend on the services supported by the church to suffer even more because we stop supporting the wonderful work of Catholic Charities and the many sisters and Catholic groups who serve those on the margins. Maybe the answer is to give more directly to those groups.

  3. Gwen Mayer says:

    My sentiments exactly! I watched some of the footage of this farce, and kept wondering how can this still be happening in 2013!

  4. Meredith says:

    Simply want to say your article is as surprising. The clearness in your post is just cool and i can assume you are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission allow me to grab your feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please carry on the rewarding work

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