Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Uncle Dick And Papa Ben And My Shrinking Waistline

I try to look for the positive on a daily basis and lately it's been hard to find much that's positive in Roman Catholicism. At least from a progressives point of view. Anyway, yesterday I'm really slamming on the Bow Flex--(This is a commercial endorsement) and realised that the article I had written was really fueling my workout, not the 20 grams of protein power bar--(not a commercial endorsement, more of a Lenten penance.) Then I got on my Nintendo Wii fitness platform--(another commercial endorsement) and hit three consecutive perfect scores on the soccer balance game and personal bests in three yoga positions.

The yoga work out seems to have centered my mind and I had this strangle little thought. I realized the two personalities who have really influenced my life in it's anger and frustration quotient in the last twenty some years are Dick Cheney and Joseph Ratzinger. In a very real respect I was working off all the weight I had accumulated under their influence. By the way, I have lost 45 pounds in the last four months using the Body For Life program. (another commercial endorsement). I have fantasies of making the 2014 Bobsled team as I figure by then I could still push a bobsled and park my butt in the back, perfectly willing not to see what I was hurdling down. (commercial endorsement for practical cowardice--no offense intended to brakepersons.)

Low and behold, I discovered Maureen Dowd of the New York Times had come to the same conclusion about Cheney and Ratzinger way back in 2005:

Uncle Dick and Papa
By MAUREEN DOWD Published: April 23, 2005--NY Times.

It was a move so smooth and bold, accomplished with such backstage bureaucratic finesse, that it was worthy of Dick Cheney himself.

The éminence grise who had long whispered in the ear of power and who had helped oversee the selection process ended up selecting himself. In Cheneyesque fashion, he searched far and wide for a pope by looking around the room and swiftly deciding he was the best man for the job. (It seems Cheney still harbors similar thoughts about his own future.)

Just like Mr. Cheney, once the quintessentially deferential staff man with the Secret Service code name "Back Seat," the self-effacing Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has clambered over the back seat to seize the wheel (or Commonweal). Mr. Cheney played the tough cop to W.'s boyish, genial pol, just as Cardinal Ratzinger played the tough cop to John Paul's gentle soul.

And just like the vice president, the new pope is a Jurassic archconservative who disdains the "if it feels good do it" culture and the revolutionary trends toward diversity and cultural openness since the 60's.

The two leaders are a match - absolutists who view the world in stark terms of good and evil, eager to prolong a patriarchal society that prohibits gay marriage and slices up pro-choice U.S. Democratic candidates.

The two, from rural, conservative parts of their countries, want to turn back the clock and exorcise New Age silliness. Mr. Cheney wants to dismantle the New Deal and go back to 1937.

Pope Benedict XVI wants to dismantle Vatican II and go back to 1397. As a scholar, his specialty was "patristics," the study of the key thinkers in the first eight centuries of the church.

They are both old hands at operating in secrecy and using the levers of power for ideological advantage. They want to enlist Catholics in the conservative cause, turning confession boxes into ballot boxes with the threat that a vote for a liberal Democrat could lead to eternal damnation.

Unlike Ronald Reagan and John Paul II, the vice president and the new pope do not have large-scale charisma or sunny faces to soften their harsh "my way or the highway" policies. Their gloomy world outlooks and bullying roles earned them the nicknames Dr. No and Cardinal No. One is called Washington's Darth Vader, the other the Vatican's Darth Vader.

W.'s Doberman and John Paul's "God's Rottweiler," as the new pope was called, are both global enforcers with cult followings. Just as the vice president acted to solidify the view of America as a hyperpower, so the new pope views the Roman Catholic Church as the one true religion. He once branded other faiths as deficient.

Both like to blame the media. Cardinal Ratzinger once accused the U.S. press of overplaying the sex abuse scandal to hurt the church and keep the story on the front pages.

Dr. No and Cardinal No parted ways on the war - though Cardinal Ratzinger did criticize the U.N. But they agree that stem cell research and cloning must be curtailed. Cardinal Ratzinger once called cloning "more dangerous than weapons of mass destruction."

As fundamentalism marches on - even Bill Gates seems to have caved to a preacher on gay rights legislation because of fear of a boycott - U.S. conservatives are thrilled about the choice of Cardinal Ratzinger, hoping for an unholy alliance. They hope this pope - who seems to want a smaller, purer church - encourages a militant role for Catholic bishops and priests in the political process.

Cardinal Ratzinger did not shrink from advising American bishops in the last presidential election on bringing Catholic elected officials to heel. He warned that Catholics who deliberately voted for a candidate because of a pro-choice position were guilty of cooperating in evil, and unworthy to receive communion. Vote Democratic and lose your soul. "Panzerkardinal," as he was known, definitely isn't a man who could read Mario Cuomo's Notre Dame speech urging that pro-choice politicians be allowed in the tent and say, "He's got a point." (Quite a different scene this past year at Notre Dame.)

The Republicans can build their majority by bringing strict Catholics and evangelicals - once at odds - together on what they call "culture of life" issues. (Turns out Catholic bishops have generously included the Mormons as well.)

But there's a risk, as with Tom DeLay, Dr. Bill Frist and other Republicans, that if the new pope is too heavy-handed and too fundamentalist, his approach may backfire. (Benedict is turning out to be much more duplicitous than Dick Cheney.)

Moral absolutism is relative, after all. As Bruce Landesman, a philosophy professor at the University of Utah, pointed out in a letter to The Times: "Those who hold 'liberal' views are not relativists. They simply disagree with the conservatives about what is right and wrong."


The more I think about Dick and Joe the more the energy builds. It's time to go workout it all out and off. Dowd's article was just a tad bit prescient. Maybe too much for my tastes.


  1. Collleen, I needed a good laugh today. I haven't even read Maureen Dowd's article yet and I am in absolute stitches!!!! THANK YOU!!

  2. It seems that the Jurassic Bishops and Mormons really are getting along quite well these days and oh, so very chummy. How lovely for them! I can only agree that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is superb! Now, if only they would just stick to music, the world would be better off!!!

    Changing the subject here, but was inspired by John Dear's recent article about Ben Salman and put together a rag tag band, a Peace Band - It's called Ben Salman's Army of Peace. I swear, everytime I ever heard a marching band play, there were always parts that seemed to be out of sync. I included such missteps as part of the conveyance of the truth of our imperfect world and the drummer is a new recruit to the band and still needs practice (me). I hope a lot of people will join the Ben Salman Army of Peace. If the last century is repeated (& a lot of things seem to indicate that), man fooling himself into thinking he can wage war in a conventional way indefinitely (without the chance ever of the enemy getting a hold of our own weapons of mass destruction - fat chance - they wish), and the Church defending such a stance for sending our children to war to be butchered in some foreign land over the lies they tell them that it is for - is INSANE. Salman's way is the only way or mankind is truly doomed. Unfortunately, that is how I see where things are headed with the likes of Joey Jurassic brains & his bungling busybody bishops and Back Seat Dick.

  3. oops... It's Salmon, not Salman.

    Truly, he took the narrow gate!! The road is WIDE to HELL - and war is hell. The Panzer & Bishops need to WAKE UP!!

  4. butterfly:

    Yes, peace is the answer!

  5. Thanks for the link TheraP. Sounds like my kind of people, Jesus' kind of people - the peacemakers.