Farewell to an Uninspiring Pope

New York Times Op-Ed Contributor
Farewell to an Uninspiring Pope
By JOHN PATRICK SHANLEY

POPE BENEDICT XVI quit. Good. He was utterly bereft of charm, tone-deaf and a protector of priests who abused children. He’d been a member of the Hitler Youth. In addition to this woeful résumé, he had no use for women. The Roman Catholic Church, which in so many ways has been a great boon to the City of New York, has been choked and bludgeoned into insignificance by a small group of men based in Italy.

Priests cannot marry. Why? I will tell you why. Priests cannot marry because they would have to marry women. Women cannot be priests. Why? Women cannot become priests because of a bunch of old men. These old men justify their beliefs with a brace of ridiculous arguments that Jesus would have overturned in a minute. “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” What about that is hard to understand? If you can become a priest, I can become a priest. Period. Equality. Benedict has not been idle. He has put in place a lot of other old guys who have no interest in sharing power with anyone outside the club. The last pope we had who showed signs of spiritual vision was John XXIII. That was a long time ago. He had humility and a good heart. These more recent appointments have been disheartening in the extreme.

When I was a kid at St. Anthony’s in the Bronx (one of the schools that the archdiocese of New York is now closing), there were boxes for the poor. The people of the East Bronx worked hard and made little. Everybody put money in those boxes. I put money in those boxes. As far as I’m concerned, that money was stolen. I have watched the wealth of the Catholic Church turned into a subsidy for wrongdoing and a prop for the continuing campaign against women’s rights and homosexuality. Neighborhood churches, built with the hard-earned money of working-class people, are being sold off. The sacrifices that were made to build these churches were significant and local. The decision to close them has been made antiseptically, by remote control. The men who make these decisions are at a remove, very much involved in protecting their power and comfort.

I have little reason to hope that the Church of Rome will suddenly realize that without women, the Catholic Church is doomed, and should be doomed. I think of those good nuns who educated me, of their lifelong devotion and sacrifice. They have been treated like cattle by a crowd of domineering fools. In Benedict, the Catholic Church got the pope it deserved. I can only hope, for the sake of my parents, who loved the church so much, that a miracle of divine grace alters the writing on the wall. If not, the Catholic Church will suffer the fate it deserves.

John Patrick Shanley is the author of “Doubt” and other plays.

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