LETTER FROM MEMPHIS: THE RAPPERS AND THE CARDINALS 

LETTER FROM MEMPHIS: THE RAPPERS AND THE CARDINALS

(SATURDAY, APRIL 9) Ñ Who found it a bit unseemly for CNN to devote three hours to live coverage of the Pope's funeral, and to repeat those three hours in prime time tonight?

Granted, the time was much better spent this week than the garbage the networks chose to feed us last week, when the horrible spectacle of a long-dead woman turned into a human beanbag in Pinellas Park, Florida, was all the buzz in tv land. For better or worse, Pope John Paul II was a truly legitimate global figure, whose passing, like Reagan's, marks the end of an age. That really is news, for a change.

But I thought while watching this evening these ca. 120 cardinals -- all dressed to the nines, all male, all reeking of power and fine perfume you could almost smell through the screen -- about how if at all, as reflectors of the basic misogyny inherent in contemporary "Christian" faith -- no women needed ever apply, after all, for the priesthood in JP2's church -- these men of somewhat questionable moral integrity (there is the midst of them, for God's sake, was Cardinal Law of Boston!) really reflected the Will of Christ, and wondered how and when some young and enterprising twenty-something might choose to set the whole scene to rap...

After all, in so many ways, the College of Cardinals does indeed, however unintentionally, refect the sexism so inherent in the works of such other modern cultural icons as Fifty Cent and Eminem. Okay, sans tattoos, sans vile lyrics, but...the rappers and the cardinals have way more in common than would ever, either side, like to admit.

Obscene, this six hours of "news" devoted to medieval ritual designed to preserve the status quo, six hours of CNN time given out as "fair and balanced," to effect the confirmation of a religious tradition as suffocating in its own way as anything Islamic.

Think about it: both the College of Cardinals and Osama Bin Laden firmly believe that one half the human race has a "different" place in God's plan than the other. How quaintly eighteenth-century! And how obscene, for any male who's ever had a wife or daughter.

......

Why every American woman is not screaming "foul," I'll never know. And, for those who think I bear an anticlerical grudge: I am as Catholic by upbringing as the day is long, and perhaps I just focused too much in my youth upon the part about Jesus and the Pharisees, because those guys on the steps in St. Peter's Square sure reminded me of same. In any event, many long years as altar boy and CYO president have earned me the right to speak frankly about the religous tradition I call my own. So those of you who think I'm coming down too hard on Catholicism: as President Reagan might have said, Mr. Moderator, I bought this microphone.

I happen to still believe, with all my heart, that Catholicism offers a more inclusive, humane path for spiritual development than just about any other faith. The facts speak for themselves; for all its problems, the Catholic Church somehow ends up being all things to all people, around the world. And inclusive, inviting, and all forgiving. These are good things.

But the Catholic Church's truly Christian path has been mightily obscured during the long rule of John Paul II, who ultimately will be viewed by historians and Catholics alike as a well-intentioned but singularly reactionary pope. The Catholic Church's best aspects, after all, were reflected, not so long ago, in the teachings of a truly great modern Pope (John XXIII), not this one. This one did little but batten down the hatches, once eastern Europe was "liberated."

And if the Big Guy really is watching -- we must of course assume He is, unless He's busy trying to decide whether the Grizzlies or the Timberwolves make the NBA playoffs -- He is not amused by CNN's fanfare, the Roman ritual of frozen players in frozen time, and the participation in said ritual of moral midgets like Cardinal Law. Hey, I can hear the Big Guy saying (when He takes a time-out before turning his attention to baseball's opening week of games): "Isn't that the kind of guy we used to burn at the stake?"

I don't know all this for a fact, of course, and can't ever "get a grip", so to speak, at least not until it's too late to share the findings with you all. But call it just a hunch.

(Kenneth Neill is publisher of The Flyer.)

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