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(DV) Kurth: Pope Rat







Pope Rat
by Peter Kurth
December 5, 2005

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It was a toss-up this week whether to write about the end of Jessica Simpson’s marriage or the latest news from the Vatican about the admissibility -- rather, the inadmissibility -- of “homosexual” men to the Catholic priesthood. (We’ll leave “homosexual” women right out of it, as no woman of any kind is allowed in the Catholic priesthood.  We’ll leave that to the Episcopalians and the Methodists and see if they have a shred of decency. I mean, we’ll just see.)

Anyway, the Vatican won, because, despite all the publicity she gets, I really don’t know who Jessica Simpson is. It’s hard to explain. I see her face everywhere, but I don’t have any idea of who or what she’s supposed to be. Jessica is like Paris Hilton in that way. Rather, she’s like Suzanne Somers, which I guess is an accomplishment in itself. But Jessica doesn’t have Suzanne’s thighs. Yet.

All right -- I know that Jessica has a younger sister called “Ashlee” (emphasis on the “ee”), who humiliated herself a while back, trying to “lip-synch” on Saturday Night Live. But I don’t think Ashlee should be punished for that. We all want to lip-synch, don’t we, and who are we to judge? 

Moving right along, I gather that Jessica and her soon-to-be ex-husband, “Nick,” met on a TV “reality” program called Newlyweds, and that they both have artistic pretensions (these would involve magazine covers, “singing” and so forth). But, as I say, I don’t know the details.  I’m glad that Jessica and Nick “still love each other” and “always will” -- amazing! just like Brad and Jennifer! -- and that Jessica is now seeing a psychiatrist to work out her problems. Long may she rain. (Yes, if you’re wondering, the misspelling is deliberate.)

So, the Vatican beat Jessica -- although, in saying so, I’d hate to be accused of “Catholic-bashing.” I’m told (often) that “Catholic-bashing” is “the only still acceptable prejudice in the United States.” I don’t believe it’s true. In fact, I believe it’s false. Lots of prejudices are still acceptable in the United States, one of them being the prejudice against “homosexuals.”  And there -- right there -- the Vatican and I part company.

Oh, I know -- all those abused altar boys. But did you read the latest? No? Then I’m going to tell you. Indeed, I’m going to quote exactly what the newspapers said. The following comes from The Telegraph in London, although it might have been broadcast by every wire service in the world.  (Actually, it was.) From Jonathan Peter, The Telegraph’s  “Religious Correspondent,” on November 30:

A long-awaited Vatican document that bars men with "deep-seated" homosexual tendencies from the priesthood was officially published yesterday in the first major ruling of Pope Benedict XVI’s reign.

The document, which has been widely leaked, earned the fierce opprobrium of liberals who said that it could trigger a witch-hunt and force gay clergy underground.

No foolin’! For this, I might become a “religious correspondent” and get paid for it. But this isn’t the time to be worrying about “liberal” tendencies in journalism. The new pope -- who is German, by the name of Ratzinger (emphasis on the "Rat") used to head up the Inquisition. He’s a temp, and he’s made this insult “the first major ruling” of his reign. Or rain -- whatever.    

He might have waited, you know, just a little. For that matter, he might go to Baghdad and stand in the public square, daring to be bombed, either by “the terrorists” or “the coalition.” It would put an end to that war, at least, right quick. It certainly would have if John Paul II had done it.  Even the Bush boys wouldn’t bomb a pope with high ratings.  Or, if they did, they’d say, “No, we didn’t.” But the pope who got himself honorably bombed in Iraq would be a hero forever. Kind of like Jesus. 

Personally, I’d suggest that only eunuchs be admitted to the priesthood, and that if they aren’t eunuchs when they apply, that they then undergo voluntary castration. This would take care of both the “sex abuse” and celibacy issues -- though it would also, doubtless, lead to a lot of complaining from “married Catholics,” who would presume that a eunuch can’t understand them.

Still, you’d think that Pope Rat had more important things to worry about than what grown-ups do in bed.  A hundred thousand people are about to freeze to death after an earthquake in Pakistan. Forty million around the world are infected with HIV (yes, one of them dies every seven minutes of your busy day, and no, most of them aren’t “gay”). The environment is going to hell in a hand basket, thanks to the expulsions of global capitalism, and what is “God” doing?  Issuing “statements” about sex. That’ll get 'em back in the pews!

I’m trying to think what the difference might be between “deep-seated” homosexuals and some other kind.  I wouldn’t have used the word “seat” in the first place, referring to gay men -- maybe it reads better in Italian. But we -- the United States, thanks to Ronald Reagan -- now send an ambassador to Vatican City, so anything that the Vatican says or does goes beyond “religion.” It becomes a matter of public policy. It becomes a matter of actual offense, and if it came from an “Islamic” nation it would be condemned so roundly and so fast you couldn’t catch Jessica between marriages. 

Please, forgive my “cynicism” -- my “negativity” -- as I’m constantly told I suffer from. But then get out there and do something -- because your churches aren't.   

Peter Kurth is the author of international bestselling books including: Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson, Isadora: A Sensational Life, and a biography of the anti-fascist journalist Dorothy Thompson, American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson. His essays have appeared in Salon, Vanity Fair, New York Times Book Review, and many others. Peter lives in Burlington, Vermont. He can be reached at: Visit his website at:

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