Before she published her major new essay on Pope Francis this past Sunday, I had never heard of Ms. Anna March. I confess it to my shame. Here is one of the great writers of our generation, who has penned a full seven articles now for Salon. Her titles alone convey the range and depth of her vision: “My Bad Sex Wasn’t Rape”; “My Shazam Boobs.” In the latter fine essay, Ms. March teaches us how hard-won is the lesson that “I can celebrate my tits without mourning their potential loss.” Hers truly is a voice for the ages.
Nor have I yet mentioned her prolific output. Though she is yet but 44, her Web site lists the following vita: 2 poems; 17 essays on literary topics for a Web site called The Rumpus (among its subtitles, “Transitions Are For Punks,” “Fantasy football with a touch of the erotic,” and “Hypocrites have more options”); 4 more book reviews; 1 short story; 12 more essays for a few more sites; and 15 whole months’ worth of writing for 2 Major Sites: Style, Substance, Soul and Rehoboth Foodie. Her first novel is in the works; and after all this, she is (as one might expect) writing her memoirs. One of her essays was nominated—actually nominated!—for a Pushcart Prize.
That such a major literary talent has until now escaped my attention lacks excuse; though it may also reflect how great is Ms. March’s humility about her own gifts.
The Eyes of March
Hence, with such obvious expertise in the matter, Ms. March is the very person for Salon to go to for an exposé of the pope’s hypocrisy and the ongoing, recidivist evil of the Catholic Church. Her matchless knowledge and depth, and of course bravery (for liberals are always brave), is in top form here.
Here she begins:
The image of Pope Francis is that he is a breath of fresh air, more progressive on social issues than his predecessor and a kinder, gentler pope. But when the facts are examined, you see that he is none of these things. There is an enormous disconnect between who the pope really is in terms of his policies and his public relations image, as crafted by the Vatican’s PR man, previously with Fox News.
See how she frames the point: To be “more progressive on social issues” is to be “kinder” and “gentler.” But to be conservative (like Benedict XVI, the Evil One) is, by the necessary logic of contrast, to be mean and harsh. In truth, it is is not every liberal who will speak such deceit to power; but Ms. March is fearless. She wants it to be known, and known well, that Church teaching is is no different than a political stance, and a very mean dog one at that. So she names it in political terms, as though it is but “policy” that could possibly change to suit the idols of the age. (Or at least one of the age’s factions.) Note that she speaks of the pope as though what he says is not Church teaching, but rather his own policy.
What confronts us—brilliantly, like a thousand points of light, at the very start of this essay—is a reconstruction of what the Church in fact is (i.e., a vehicle for the propagation of Truth and the salvation of souls) into what Ms. March wants it to be (a vehicle for the propagation of ideology—specifically, her own). Who, I ask you, if you can answer, has dared that before? None dare call it unreason.
But note again, for emphasis:
Pope Francis has made any number of statements that seem to indicate change and progress that are not reflected in policy. In fact, in the wake of such comments from Pope Francis, the Vatican often makes a point to explicitly state that no church policy has changed.
The Church, as Ms. March understands, alone among the stars, does not have truths; nor does it have teachings. Rather, it has policies. From the start, her liberal agenda is to politicize the Church—to somehow posit that a good pope will advance, not right doctrine, but correct “policies.”
For too long, liberals in the media have dreamed that Pope Francis is going to put an easy stamp on their policies—women priests, abortion on demand, free contraception, gay marriage, communion for the remarried. One would have thought that a new pope who talked the talk about “who am I to judge?” would sign the dotted line to these reasonable demands of his betters, these natural outgrowths of the freer thinking of our time.
In one of the more hopeful expressions of this thinking (now tragically rebuffed), the UK Daily Mail reported in November that Irish professor and feminist Linda Hogan “is being tipped as a contender” to be the first female cardinal.
A woman has never held the title, and while current precedence states only ordained men can be appointed to the role, Pope Francis could be poised to make history.
The leader of the Catholic church, elected eight months ago, has emerged as a liberal prompting speculation he will invite a woman to don the red hat and welcome the first female cardinal into the Vatican’s fold.
The reformist Argentinian pope has made no secret of the fact he aims to increase the role of women in the church, calling for “a truly deep theology of women.”
Now, as liberals, we know in private that this is all nothing but sheer wind. We know—no one need tell us—that the fact that Francis is “reformist” or “Argentinian” has no pertinent meaning at all; that when he speaks of “a truly deep theology of women,” he has something far different in mind than female cardinals, lesbian marriages, and aborted babies. We do not ask what that is; for it need not vex us. But what we do is, we find some wild Jesuit priest (or we make one up), we goad him to speculate that impossible fantasies are even at the door, we peer over the landscape for a likely “first female cardinal,” and we run like mad to tickle the dupes who read us.
Thus we can plant our agenda in the public thinking; we hope to get lucky with a doddering, well-meaning, geriatric of a pope (as long as he’s not an asshole like Benedict); and we have fun in the meantime driving credulous Traditionalists into a mad panic.
But now I fear I have given too much away.
The Odes of March
It is a rare and special genius who knows when to admit misplaced hope and failed deception and to bring out the sweet odes of betrayal and anger. Ms. March is that genius of the hour.
Her pyrrhic ode to the Francis Who Was (before the jilting) is long and bittersweet, and I have time to look at but one of its main thrusts. It comes in Ms. March’s argument (and it is the key one) that the pope’s claim to be for the poor is little more than a mean sham. The world, and especially the Church, is filled with deceit. But let Ms. March tell it us.
It is ludicrous to take either Pope Francis or the Catholic Church seriously on their commitment to end poverty. Even the National Catholic Reporter calls out the hypocrisy of the Vatican on this issue. Lack of access to birth control and comprehensive family planning traps people in a cycle of poverty.
This is common propaganda, but it falls to Ms. March to speak it at a time (beset by the scandal of truth) when common propaganda is under grave threat. Amazingly, an arch-conservative Catholic commentator (who I will not name or link to for fear of giving him more publicity than he deserves) offered the following tripe as his response. Having the gall to address Ms. March directly (as though he were in the very room with her grace), he says:
Do you really think, Ms. March, that the only solution to poverty is the murder of babies by dismemberment or poison? Do you really think that good ends cannot be achieved by good means? That abstinence (gasp!) might help? That if only we follow Church teaching in our fight against poverty, God cannot direct it? I find your lack of faith disturbing.
Star Wars humor is a low form of wit. It is like someone who puts on a clown nose and pretends (for our more bitter disappointment) that he is a liberal.
Deaf, dumb, and mad wingnuts like the one quoted above are fond of telling us that personal holiness and charity are the best way to meet the poor and lift them up and bring them to Christ. But when, century after century, the poor are always with us, why should we believe those who vainly cite Jesus, as though to impose on our brave minds a stifling and literal interpretation of the Bible?
In her essay, sure to be seminal, Ms. March reveals the starker truth that lies in the black heart of the Church and the new pope.
The new sexist, nun-hating, poverty-perpetuating, pedophile-protecting homophobe is the same as the old sexist, nun-hating, poverty-perpetuating, pedophile-protecting homophobe, but gosh how the media loves him.
Brilliant: She excels at a little-known form of rhetoric called the unjust aspersion. Descended as it is from the Shakespearean insult, it is as though Ms. March had said, “Thou vile, scurvy beast of night! Thou wert ever a homophobic dastard!” But she says it in the peculiar and exalted language of our own age, with an admirable minimum of control and excess of just and maddened rage. Sensitive souls—the very lights that twinkle in our progressive firmament—will say that there is too little slander in our literary culture; but rare gems require rare writers to shine as they ought. In Ms. March’s skilled hand, aspersion shines.
And what but raving aspersion do liberals have left now that the pope has turned Pennywise on us and beat down all our hopes for justice? It is but well to arouse us all from our delusion and our slumber. It is a hard but brave task, and Ms. March does it well, and with the piercing depth of a true writer.
Conservatives will want to dig their heels in at this newest opportunity to lecture us that it is not “policy” but truth and God’s eternal law that are at the heart of the matter. These things, they wildly believe, do not change with the age. They will say that we are confused about the nature of truth. They will say that we do not understand the Church because we interpret everything through the filter of “policy”; and they interpret everything through the light of eternal, unchanging truth. They will say it is no Church at all that merely has “policies.”
And while, deep down, we fear that all this may be true, why should we have to give up our pretty dreams? Why not rebel with just outrage and righteous anger, as does this March hare?
There is more there, much more, and too much to describe in my own humble piece of appreciation; for mere workmanship bows down at genius. I may note but one example, and that is her stunning tale (she is a novelist, dear reader) of how a Fox News shill became the PR genius behind the pope’s blithe mask, which he wears only to spur cash out of the hips of Americans and into the clinking coffers of the Vatican. (But once the coin in the coffer clings, the mask from Pennywise springs.) That it was Ms. March who was able to rip off the mask will be told and retold down the ages.
Howbeit, in humble admiration, I would like to make a suggestion to my new hero Ms. March. Since the Catholic Church shows no sign that it will change with the age—it is too attached to truth, whereas wiser souls (like you and I) admire our own will—I would ask that you leave it to rot with the brackish weight of its own 2000 years. It is sure to. Trust me when I say the gates of Hell will prevail. They must, in the end. But for now, there are 50,000 other churches; or none at all. I request you please to choose. And continued good luck in your amazing career.
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