Christopher Lee


How Many Divisions Has The Pope – About One Billion.  Politicians Don’t Forget That

11th February 2013

Benedict XVI has decided that he must go. He is too frail.  Having announced to a meeting of cardinals that he will go at the end of the month, he was helped from his throne by two acolytes and there was no power in him.


So immediately the political classes had to “say something”.


Mario Monti the Italian prime minister said he is “greatly shaken”.


The German Chancellor Angela Merkel said of her fellow German that his decision “has my utmost respect. He is one of the most significant religious thinkers of our time.”


The British Prime Minister, David Cameron said “he will be missed as a spiritual leader to millions.” That came from a politician who had just forced through his own Parliament a Bill defying the beliefs of his own state controlled church and most certainly the sentiment preached by the Pope, to make gay marriage an Okay thing.


Maybe the guy who got it right amid all the political sanctimony was the presidential spokesman in the Philippines, Edwin Lacierda: “May he find respite from his physical challenges and contentment in the seclusion of retirement.”


When Stalin inquired without any delicacy “How many divisions does the Pope have?” he was responding to Rome’s declaration that the Soviet leader should stop the persecution of Catholics.


The classic hindsight response to Stalin would have been how many divisions does the Pope need?  No one would have been so silly as to offered themselves to a bullet in the back of the head just for the sake of a worthless quip. The Pope was dismissed as the most recognizable figure in the world but one who had no power over realistic power – the gun, the threat of the gun and the record of the gun.


The hopeless romantic might observe that just six Popes sat in Rome during the whole history of Communism albeit few unstained. Yet for all the criticism of a Church under this Holy Father and before that as leader for nearly a quarter of a century of the Church’s modern Inquisition, officially, the Doctrine of the Faith, he has been the spiritual steward of one seventh of the world.


As the political leaders shoved their divisions into other countries, Benedict and his predecessor counselled caution and humility.


When the born again Christian Bible-quoting Bush and the Hail Marian Blair ignored the truth and the wishes of millions of their own congregations  and went into Iraq and then Afghanistan like some unholy band of text spouting red neck crusaders, the Vatican stood its ground and said it was wrong.


Equally under Benedict and his Cardinals before him the Church chose to ignore or cover up the most bestial crimes of their parish priests who had jangled the genitalia of young boys and even entered their ani.


And yet the politicians are right when they mouth the spiritual recognition of more than a billion followers. 


If Christianity is the opiate of the masses then the need cannot be denied. The sanctimonious vote hungry legislators who struggle with power and its relationship with the profound commandments said to have been given to Moses have an understanding that what they offer is mostly held in contempt by the very electorate who rely on them to keep them from economic and military harms way.


Benedict XVI could present but one core belief and in that, he was no different from those who came before him and is no different from those who follow.  Yet no other religious leader in the whole world could cause such global reaction as would the going by whatever way of a Pope of the Church of Rome.


Whatever we like to think, even when a Pope’s name is unknown, his image is instantly recognized world-wide.  No divisions? An opiate and little more? The prompter of political banality? The uncompromising, cruelly so some would say, denouncer of modern social norms such as homosexuality, divorce and contraception? Yes, all of these things.  But look at the public reaction to nothing more than an 85 year-old guy saying he’s going to retire. Even allowing for the over-reaction of the media, there is hardly another peaceful event of the going of a public figure that could cause such excitement.


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