Politics: Has Sanity any Hope When Pope’s a Dope? Nope

This must be the silly season in the book publishing world

I refer to the public leaders-cum-authors that have come crawling out of the woodwork with justifications / excuses / revisions for their past conduct.

One’s memoirs begin more like those of a Hollywood celeb fresh out of the Betty Ford clinic rather than of a president fresh out of the White House.  Such is how Dubya’s tome unfolds:  Unlike past presidential memoirs, not with a reflection on statecraft or politics but rather on his boozing.

And then we have Benedict XVI’s.  You’ll find His Holiness’s latest (“Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times,” but I’d call it, “A Vatican in the Dark:  A Pope and a Church Pathetically Behind the Times”) in the religion section of your bookstore, when it by every good reason ought to be shelved more appropriately in the humor section.

My preference would be the nearest wastebasket.

No doubt by now you’ve heard of the most talked-about (and confusing) tidbit from its 185 pages:  The pope’s rationalization for the use of condoms.  A rehash:  They’re OK if, say, you’re a prostitute and trying to avoid spreading HIV.  For everyone else, rubbers are still verboten.

Prophylactic-related pontification from the pontiff seems in keeping with this Vatican’s current preoccupation with all things sexual, especially given the persistence of the Church’s predicament with priestly pedophilia, a prickly subject about which Benedict has been such a wiz of a captain at steering his church through the troubled waters of.

Yeah, right into the shoals, that is.

Past evidence has amply shown that the last people who should be foaming at the mouth, finger-wagging to us about what our sexual moralities should be, are politicians (particularly the conservative kind) and religious figures.

For men of the cloth who have sworn to lives of celibacy and all the inanity of that, they sure know a lot about sex and how it ought be practiced, now don’t they?

The pope’s book has been rushed to print in hopes of staving off all the harsh criticism he has rightly earned for an unending series of comments and decisions over the last five years that have been called “self-inflicted public relations missteps” of a “gaffe-prone” papacy.  Good luck with that.

In 2009, he told reporters that condoms weren’t the answer to the AIDS epidemic in Africa:  “One cannot overcome the problem with the distribution of condoms.  On the contrary, they increase the problem.”  An international uproar followed.

Earlier this year, the Vatican chickened out of conducting a study to determine what it should say, if anything, on the matter of condom usage, preferring to leave congregants shrouded in darkness, which is and has always tended to be the Church’s favorite ambient environment on many subjects besides that one.

This pope plainly doesn’t get it.  Nor a lot else.  Commenting on the furor he sparked last year when he lifted the excommunication of four reich-wing bishops, including that of Richard Williamson, a Holocaust denier, Benedict says in retrospect he wouldn’t have pardoned Williamson:  “Unfortunately, none of us went on the Internet to find out what sort of person we were dealing with.”  You don’t say.

For an enclave that seems to still have its head buried in the sand of the Dark Ages, a wi-fi connection seems rather too modern and secular a utility for the Vatican.  And if they are connected, they were all probably too busy surfing porn sites anyway.  Like everybody else.

The journalist-author to whom Benedict poured out his questionable wisdom fawned over him effusively during this literary project.  Except for this one collaborator, Benedict despises the media and blames them – them – for miscommunicating his nutty views to an outraged, head-shaking world audience.

Among the book’s other disappointing revelations, Benedict –

? declares that the ultra-conservative Legion of Christ order – whose charismatic founder was exposed as a notorious child molester and embezzler – “is sound” and calls for its members to continue the mission of their disgraced founder, the late Father Marcial Maciel Degollado.

? says sex abuse victims should be a Church priority, but refuses to address his management of the scandal nor his own controversial role in dealing with specific cases while he was Archbishop of Munich.

? blames a relaxation of societal mores in the 60s and 70s as the root cause of the abuses, rather than – well, what else? – the failure of priests to keep their pants zipped up under those cassocks, perhaps?

? reasserts all those tired, old prohibitions – mandatory celibacy for priests, no ordination of women, no communion for divorced Catholics, no artificial birth control for anyone.

His susceptibility to foot-in-mouth disease being such as it is, Benedict’s opinions over the years have prompted such head-scratching that most sane people would have already dug a hole through their skulls by now.

One agreeable statement from the pontiff’s pie hole:  He says he would consider resigning if his physical or mental faculties failed.  Some would argue that the latter has long ago occurred.

Retirement would be a wise and welcome move.  At which time the College of Cardinals would meet once again, blow white smoke up a chimney, and name his successor.  One, we can only hope, who will be an infinitely better improvement.

And one who doesn’t have to shake a lot of sand off his head.

THE SCENE:  Man gets pissed off with a work colleague.  Utters a threat.  Man #2 dares him.  Man #1 grabs Man #2, then raises a fist to hit him.  Man #2 summons the cops.  Cops arrive, take a report, then leave.

Same workplace:  Man #1 was previously accused – months ago – of hurling a chair at yet another colleague.  Cops get called; no charges filed.

Same workplace:  Man #2 – last year – had some sort of an exchange himself with another colleague, provoking Man #2?s wife to seek a restraining order against the man with whom her husband had the confrontation.

The workplace?  (Are you ready for this?)  Miami Beach City Hall.

The cast of characters:  Man #1 (Capital Improvement Projects Director Charles Carreño), Man #2 (Emanuel Mayer, a city manager’s assistant), Target of the Alleged Flying Chair (CIP employee Miguel Vicente Perez), Man Confronted by Man #2 (Commissioner Jonah Wolfson), Man #2?s Wife (one-time Commission candidate Maria Mayer).

What a soap opera.  If stuff such as this keeps up, sounds like a police substation right there inside City Hall might be in order.


Well, well, well.

Some of those pink snails that have become the Beach’s own sort-of answer to Cristo’s “Hanging Curtains” of Central Park these last few weeks have been rudely, crudely assaulted.

These gargantuan escargots that we’ve grown to like, in the short while they’ve been here (an Art Basel fixture), were at first enigmatic to most of us until their presence and purpose were explained to us in news reports.

One should have guessed it wouldn’t have been long, though, before the crummy-scummy element among us would scheme to vandalize and graffiti-ize them.  One even got catapulted into the Bay.

Salt kills the real ones, but no vandal’s spray paint is going to take these out.  YOU BASTARDS GOT THAT?

I’ve actually gone up to the one that all-of-a-suddenly materialized one day in my neck of the woods, and, out of curiosity, touched it to gauge what it was made of (merely touched it, I say, not petted or hugged it – there might have been neighbors watching and I would never have been looked at the same way again).

As of the other day, “my” snail, I’m happy to report, was still unmolested, which can be chalked up to either the civility of those in my neighborhood or that the malevolent miscreants have yet to encroach upon it.

So stay away from it, you ass-wipes.  A lot of us like our town’s newest and colorful visitors.  And we’ll be keeping a protective eye on ‘em.

SHE MAY NOT HAVE GOTTEN TO BE the nation’s Second Lady in 2004, or its First in 2008, but the resiliency and unflagging optimism of Elizabeth Edwards in the fiercest campaign of her life – that against cancer – made her a victor in ways that politics never did or could.

The profile in courage she evoked in that last stage of her life, as well as the candor by which she shared her highs and lows with us as she struggled against terminal illness and marital infidelity, makes her a First Lady in the truest sense.  We knew you for only six years, Elizabeth Edwards, and that was too, too brief.

About Charles Branham-Bailey

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