Faint the last month black. It's been an orgy of mourning, a cornucopia of death. We've had Terri Schiavo, Pope John Paul II, Prince Rainier, and Charles and Camilla's wedding -- which felt as grim as any funeral. All brought to us in no-longer-living color. If nothing else, the media have outed themselves as the ultimate necrophiliacs. I expect CNN and Forest Lawn to announce a sponsorship agreement any day now.
The pope's interminable interment was the magenta-colored cherry on the death sundae. The television coverage was so over-the-top and utterly uncritical, it was as if John Paul had been, well, the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Now, I'm certainly not suggesting that the last week should have been spent trashing the late pontiff. His many achievements -- taking on communism, embracing the Third World, speaking out for the poor, and standing up against war -- surely deserved recognition and praise. But you'd think the wall-to-wall coverage would have included some serious discussion of the two tragic failures of his reign: his woeful mishandling of the church's child-molestation scandal and how his archaic position on condoms contributed to the deaths of millions of people, especially in Africa.
The molestation outrage is a black mark that can't be whitewashed.
More than 11,000 children were abused and close to $1 billion in settlement money was paid out, but the pope did not go much beyond decrying "the sins of some of our brothers." He didn't meet with any victims or offer solutions to dealing with the problem or address the decades-long cover-up. He even rejected a "zero tolerance" policy calling for the immediate removal of molester-priests because of concern that it was too harsh.
Too harsh?! This is a man who wouldn't allow a priest to become a bishop unless he was unequivocally opposed to masturbation, premarital sex, and condoms. So, in his perversion pecking order, priests had to be dead-set against "self-love," but when it came to buggering little kids, there was some wiggle room.
And let's not forget that John Paul appointed Cardinal Bernard Law, who was one of the architects of the sex-scandal cover-up and who even faced potential criminal prosecution for his role in the concealment. But instead of making an example out of Law, the pope gave him a cushy sinecure in the Vatican. Adding insult to the grievous injury suffered by abuse victims, Law was one of the nine cardinals specially chosen to preside over the pope's funeral masses. It is a disgrace -- and an indication of how detached the Vatican became under this pope.
The other stain on the pope's legacy is his tireless opposition to the use of condoms -- even in places like Africa, where AIDS killed 2.3 million people last year and where the disease has driven life expectancy below 40 years in many countries.
But even in the face of that kind of suffering, John Paul fought against condoms. Any time a church official even suggested that people infected with HIV should use condoms, they were either removed from office or censured.
On the other hand, the pope's passing might have saved the political skin of one of his culture-of-life cohorts, House majority leader Tom DeLay. If you have a series of looming ethics scandals about to come crashing down on your head, having the media focused 24/7 on something else is a very lucky break indeed.
The presence of DeLay at the pope's funeral in Rome, along with President Bush, the first lady, Condoleezza Rice, Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and George Bush Sr., was a stark reminder of our perverted priorities. The pope dies, and it's Must Holy See TV; 1,547 American soldiers die in Iraq, and President Bush has yet to attend a single one of their funerals. Not a single one. •
Arianna Huffington writes for AlterNet and Ariannaonline.com.