I’ve been to a number of wakes and funerals, and — so far so good — have never stolen anything from the deceased. For some odd reason, that urge never came over me. Now, were the recently departed friend or relative to clutch an object that I wanted, I don’t think I’d have the chutzpah to ask the family if I could have it, but I would still consider asking preferable to taking.
Of course, being an atheist (one who’s been asked where I get my morals if not from God), I have no clue whether my reticence to steal from the dead is morally sound or anything. I concede that I could have been doing it all wrong.
For help, today I turn to the supreme ethicist in the Vatican, the divinely inspired arbiter of virtue who advises 1,200,000,000 Catholics on what is just and proper. And lo:
Pope Francis confessed Thursday that he took the rosary cross of his late confessor from his casket and wears it to this day in a fabric pouch under his cassock. …
He told the story of the “great confessor” of Buenos Aires who had heard confessions from most of the diocesan priests as well as from Pope John Paul II when he visited Argentina. When the priest died, Francis went to pray by his open casket and was stunned that no one had brought any flowers. “This man forgave the sins of all the priests of Buenos Aires, but not a single flower?” Francis recalled.
So he went out and bought a bouquet of roses, and when he returned to arrange them around the casket, he saw the rosary the priest still held in his hand. “And immediately there came to mind the thief we all have inside ourselves and while I arranged the flowers I took the cross and with just a bit of force I removed it,” he said, showing with his hands how he pulled the cross off the rosary. “And in that moment I looked at him and I said “Give me half your mercy.’”
What, no “please” or “thank you”?
I wonder what other inviolable commands by the Almighty may be safely tweaked to allow us to satisfy our whims and impulses, and I look forward to more Vatican guidance on the matter.