Monday Madness: Paupal Papal Opines on Opulent Pagans

I don’t often have the time to continue my Monday Madness posts as of late. but today I heard something so jaw-droppingly Maddening I just had to put it online. (via Pharyngula) The head of one of the largest organizations of people in the world, one of the biggest (if not the biggest) non-governmental land-owning organizations on the planet, that governs its organization from within heavily gilded halls, has just spoken out about the evils of Opulence. It’s time for some Monday Madness.


The Pope staged a public event in the outdoors to call attention to a great Pagan Evil – Opulence. The headline reads: Pope condemns ‘pagan’ love of Money, Power. But the subtitle, for an article that shows him smiling with outstretched hands to hundreds of onlookers, ironically, adds “Benedict Leads more than 250,000 Catholics in Outdoor Mass in Paris.”

That’s some power, to lead 250,000 people in any event. Just for hearing that you’re going to be there. I have to say I’m impressed – it can be hard to arrange a film shoot with three people on one morning, let alone find a time convenient for a quarter of a million human beings. And I bet he loves that power – that ability to influence people and get them to listen to, what he believes is, the right way to act. I mean, if you love making people into better people, which I’m sure he does, then you would therefore love having the power to reach so many people all at once with your words. Therefore, the Pope loves power.

But he also spoke out about the evils of money and possessions.

“Has not our modern world created its own idols?” Benedict said in his homily, and wondered aloud whether people have “imitated, perhaps inadvertently, the pagans of antiquity?”

Yes, like worshiping multiple god-heads. The Catholics have saints for everything, for medicine, music, accounting, advertising, beekeepers, breast disease, funeral directors, loss of parents, notaries, pawn brokers, venereal disease, taxi drivers, and even if you lose your car keys – I can’t tell you how many times Saint Andrew has helped me out in a tight spot! (Actually, I can, zero.) There’s even a Saint for Priests, and one for Theologians! They thought of everything! (No Patron Saint of Science) Any similarity to polytheistic paganism is of course, inadvertent.

Today’s love of money and power is pagan. You see, anything that doesn’t chime with what the Pope believes – is pagan. Democracy, the Separation of Church and State, Sex education and reproductive choice, and providing prophylactic protection for people suffering from an AIDS epidemic in Africa – all Pagan! Well, no, he didn’t call them pagan, I’m just being silly. But he did say, nebulously, that Democracy should be Democracy within Theocracy. Yes, you can have your democracy, as long as we make our laws your laws first! Enshrining my religion in your laws actually makes you free, didn’t you know that? Now put down that condom before I arrest you.

Anyway, let’s get back to the meat of this issue. This guy.

Benedict XVI

Calling everyone else Opulent. Really. Look at the chair he’s sitting on, the Grand Wizard hat, and the scepter. Seriously. Who is King Midas here calling Opulent? Look at the top of the Scepter – is that a Silver Jesus dying on a Silver cross? Well I guess if it’s not a golden calf, it’s OK.

I have to apologize for something in the preceding paragraph. The pope was not in any way connected to the KKK. It was the Hitler Youth. Please send hate mail to Ariela (grand wizard hat tip!) for coming up with that one.

Gawd, look at all that gold! It is no wonder why the Pope held his Mass before the masses in Paris to talk about the evils of ‘Pagan’ opulence rather than in his usual digs and humble abode. I think it might be a little harder for people to swallow his message if it was given in the gilded hallowed halls of Vatican City.

One look at the Pagan Opulence of St. Peter’s Basilica and jig would be up.

The One True God of Gold and Bronze has clearly set up residence. Now there’s nothing wrong with some good ol’ fashioned ancient mythological art for everyone to enjoy – just when you make it your office for sending emails and writing speeches you’re going to give in Paris about them Pagans, you’re not doin’ it right. Donate Vatican City to the Nation of Italy to be put in trust as a historical monument, a museum for everyone in the world to come see every Opulent nook and cranny, every bronze statue, silver spoon, marble buttressed ceiling, and wade through the piles of gold and shrouds in the basement, and conduct your life-of-a-pauper business from a nice cozy Victorian Bungalow.

“This is a question that all people, if they are honest with themselves, cannot help but ask,” the pontiff said.

No wait, too Opulent. More like an unheated stone chapel in the middle of nowhere, like in Brother Sun, Sister Moon. Ever seen that film? When Saint Francis of Assisi was brought before the Pope of the time, the Pope put the smackdown on the other Cardinals who growled at the poor looking St. Francis, saying that he was truly living the life of Jesus, and that they, with all their gold and robes and humonguous halls should be humbled by him? Naturally, this never happened. Just some feel-good Hollywood drama for ya. The real Pope was reluctant to even see St. Francis, and only informally admitted his religious order to the church. As for introspecting and criticizing their own rich surroundings? Never heard of it.

Paraphrasing from the New Testament, Benedict decried “insatiable greed” and said “the love of money is the root of all evil.”

No, the Catholic Church is quite attached to its possessions.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe pope Benedict is trying to harden himself against wielding too much power, or enjoying too much opulence. Perhaps he wants to be a totally different pope, detached from the sins of previous orthodoxies. After all, he recently, to his credit, admitted that homosexuality and pedophilia are two different things. He’s a thoroughly modern Pope!

“Have not money, the thirst for possessions, for power and even knowledge, diverted man from his true destiny?” the pope asked.

Or maybe you’re finally coming out of the closet as… a Pagan? 🙂 Three years ahead of it’s time, The Onion reported that the late Pope John Paul II was disappointed with heaven – that it lowered his standard of living. Ouch. I like how he made a stab at Knowledge, too – you can’t haaandle the truth!

It’s your turn to prove yourself Pope Benedict XVI, now’s your chance. Let loose all your belongings and take a vow of poverty, live in a small hut with only basic amenities like water, electricity, and WiFi. C’mon Ratzie, let it all fly loose!

But stay in your golden halls, with unnecessary riches and fancy duds, and opine on the evil “Pagan” opulence of others, and that’s just Madness. Perfect for a Monday. Enjoy your week and thanks for reading.

P.S. I read this post to a dyed-in-the-wool catholic twice my age and she nearly died of laughter. So if you’re not laughing, there’s probably something wrong. You need more hilarity:

UnNews: Pope hits out at cunsumer culture, prefers time when Church owned everything.

Behold the Mercedes Pope-Mobile!

Ethics Gradient takes a more spirited stance on the matter.

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Karl Haro von Mogel

Karl Haro von Mogel serves as BFI’s Director of Science and Media and as Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. He has a PhD in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from UW-Madison with a minor in Life Sciences Communication. He is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar researching citrus genetics at UC Riverside.

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