Friday, March 15, 2013

Glee "One Of Us"

I've written about this song before, but it popped into my head a bunch of times yesterday as the White Smoke from Vatican had cleared and news stories about the new Pope circulated.

One of the tidbits that seemed to provoke a bit of hand-scratching/bemusement of the media, was that archbishop Jorge Bergoglio was known in Buenos Aires to fore-go a driver or special car, but rather take the bus from his downtown apartment (foregoing the mansion), to his office.

And when he was elected Pope, the new Pope Francis declined to take a limousine back to the place he was staying, opting instead to ride the transport bus he'd arrived in, along with the other Cardinals.

Will this continue?  Could you get on a bus in Rome with plans to climb the Spanish Steps, only to find yourself seated next to the Pope?  Since every news report of the last 48 hours has included the words "humility" and "modesty" can we expect to see the Catholic Church's hierarchy reject the trappings of a Monarch-like existence?

There are a lot of reasons I stopped going to church and stopped participating in organized religion.  I did so long before the clergy abuse scandals came to light, and long before I traveled to Rome.  But that trip in 2003 did as much as anything to steel my feelings that the Catholic Church was not the place for me.

We spent a day in Vatican City, touring the Sistine Chapel, and the many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many halls filled with priceless artwork, statues, sculptures, pottery and gold-covered everything.  I remember lying in bed that night, trying to close my eyes and fall asleep, my brain on overload processing and organizing the completely overwhelming rush of images flickering through my memory.

There was so much money, so much wealth, so much accumulation, that it was hard to square that with the vows of poverty, the life of service, the administering to the poor, that are supposed to be the crux of the church's mission.

If you had a choice between a Pope mobile or a bus, which would you take?  Or a helicopter flown by the Italian Air Force, or the rail-train with local stops, which would you take?   Or having a butler prepare your clothing, or going to the laundromat to wash your vestments, which would you take?

Speaking realistically, even if Pope Francis wants to buy a bus pass, security concerns are unlikely to make that feasible.  He's going to have to ride in the armor-plated vehicle.  And doesn't that eventually corrupt and separate you?

So I'm not as optimistic as the folks who hear "The Pope Takes A Bus" stories and believe it's a new day for the Catholic Church.

Nor am I as cynical as the folks who, hours after Francis was elected Pope, started posting about how his positions on Marriage Equality and other social issues are no change whatsoever from the Church's previous, conservative positions.  Being surprised the Cardinals elected a Pope who holds most of the same positions as his predecessor, is like being surprised the Patriots drafted a football player, instead of, you know, an Olympic Swimmer.

As I toss and turn the "what does this all mean" in my head, and think about the future of the Catholic Church, I eventually circle back to where I have been for sometime.

I stopped practicing organized religion because I don't need anything but my own awareness, to know that I need to recognize both the humanity, and the Godliness, of that person riding next to me on the bus, be he The Pope, or just a "slob like one of us."

The rest of religion, to me, is just a lot of white smoke.

Hear the song on Youtube.

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