A Myth that Needs Killin’

A Myth that Needs Killin’ October 5, 2012

So here’s a little standard issue “profile” of a dreaded Catholic prelate who thinks that Catholic politicians should face actual canonical disciplines when they spit on obvious Church teaching. It is all, of course, filtered through American political cateegories, such that the prelate is understood to be a Republican operative for pointing out the Dem party is joined at the pelvis with the abortion industry and is a fanatically pro-death party. Speaking this obvious truth is regarded as terribly declasse by David Gibson, the author of the piece. So the mission is to destroy the messenger. How do you do that? By the time-tested strategy of painting him as an effete piece of Euro-royalty living in the lap of luxury, of course! It’s worked for all of American history so why mess with a good thing? Gibson:

The 63-year-old prelate — in his workaday attire of black cassock with red piping and a scarlet sash with matching skullcap — was speaking in his gilded offices on the upper floors of the 16th century Palazzo della Cancelleria, one of the most famous Renaissance palaces in Rome that now houses the Catholic Church’s highest court.

Pause right there. When was the last time you got this sort of color commentary on any American politicians or businessman, in his workaday attire of a $10,000 Armani suit with $800 silk tie and designer Versace shoe in Corinthian leather. When did you get detail that they were speaking from their gilded office in the 18th century Capitol building or from the hundredth floor of the Acme Birdseed Company headquarters with gold toilets purchased with the most recent TARP bailout money?

Rome has been well described as a third world country with great art. Vatican clergy work in the buildings they work in, just as federal employees work in the buildings they work in, because that’s where the offices are. The myth of the Infinite Gilded Wealth of the Vatican is one of the most absurd notions dominating an American mind that still likes to pat itself on the back as a thrifty culture of plain folk 19th Century agrarians who don’t go in for them fancy citified ways of them Eyetalian prelates with their vast wealth.

Update from the 21st century to all Americans: You are now the rich, sleek, fat, corrupt, worldly urban power. Turn on your cable TV. You are the ones striding the corridors of power, hatching Byzantine schemes, whoring after money, sex, and power. The ridiculous attempt, at this late date, to perpetuate those melodramatic 19th century tropes about the immensely powerful world-spanning Vatican whore of Babylon are really past their sell-by date. NY, DC, and LA (and the nation that takes its moral cues from there) fit the bill for Babylon the Great far better than a small bureaucracy on a piece of land the size of a postage stamp. And giant corporations for the Manufacture of the Corporate Story like the WaPo are lapdogs of the Whore. Time for thinking people to put that silly legend of the Simple Honest American vs. the Scheming Vatican Octopus to bed.

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