Angels And Demons: Keith O’Brien, The Barmy Benedict, A Ghanaian Cardinal, And The Antipope

savileI’m sure the 1.2 billion followers of the Catholic religion were gutted when, on 25th February 2013, it became apparent that a Scotsman would not become the next Pope ruling in the Vatican. The resignation of the Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh brought embarrassment cascading on to the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, meaning he will not take part in the papal conclave that is only days away . . . He’s not even Scottish anyway. He was born in Northern Ireland.

So why was he forced to step down in the first place? Basically because he’s just another one of the complete nut jobs that are becoming increasingly more prevalent in the Catholic Church as their shady pasts are uncovered.

Keith O’Brien, more fiercely than any other religious leader, attacked gay marriage with unrestrained enthusiasm. He condemned it as a “grotesque subversion” and argued that “same-sex relations are demonstrably harmful to the medical, emotional and spiritual well-obrienbeing of those involved.” Not only is that utterly ludicrous and shameful, it ironically makes him a massive hypocrite. In 2012 he was named “bigot of the year” by gay rights charity Stonewall. And he even compared abortion to “two Dunblane massacres a day”, threatening to deny communion to politicians who accepted the procedure. Moreover, he compared sex education in schools as the “state-sponsored sex abuse” of young children and described a new bill on human embryos as “Frankenstein” experiments . . .

Someone has to help me out here. Am I missing something? Can anyone genuinely provide a comprehensive answer to the following question?

How do these sick lunatics actually get in power?

catholic_pedophilia_798845The catalyst of O’Brien’s resignation, was, as per usual, the dramatic discovery of allegations regarding sexual misconduct, this time to priests across a period of three decades. So folks, no Briton will take part in the conclave of cardinals to elect a successor to the barmy Benedict. Tragic. We should mainly be glad though. At least it’s now ensured that no one associated in any way with our little island will be caught up in the whole pointless charade that will take place in Rome in mid-March. Everything to do with the Catholic Church these days seems less and less about fellowship, love, and belief, and more and more about sexual scandals, resignations, and cover-ups. It’s stupid.

So who are the other candidates for the 266th pope?

cardinalsWell, the world’s eyes are on Rome right now as the leaderless Roman Catholic Church begins the 2,000-year-old (thankfully not year-long) process of choosing a new guy to wear the big pointy hat. Sadly, there are no ladies in the line-up yet. Maybe one day. Meanwhile, cardinals from around the world started gathering on Monday in the Vatican. They basically all take part in long boring congregation meetings before the conclave where they stay in a big fancy hotel and go back and forth from the Sistine Chapel for the voting. It’s no longer as dramatic as it once was, they aren’t all locked inside together to fight it out, disappointing I know. That would be interesting wouldn’t it? I suppose the tallest, strongest, youngest cardinal would win. The guy with the biggest biceps and meanest left hook.

la-na-tt-pope-benedicts-departure-20130213-001Anyway, the front runners range from 68-year-old Canadian Marc Ouellet, to 63-year-old Brazilian Odilo Scherer, to 62-year-old American Timothy Dolan, to popular 55-year-old Filipino Luis Tagle, to 64-year-old Ghanaian Peter Turkson.

Turkson would be the first African pope of the modern age. In his career so far he has called for radical economic reforms to deal with the global economic recession, and heavily criticised the IMF. As well as condoning condoms and joining Twitter, with regards to homosexuality, he has stated, “Just as there’s a sense of a call for rights, there’s also a call to respect culture, of all kinds of people”. He seems all right to be honest.

However, there have been fascinating allegations over a “two-pope problem” as many rise up in outrage over Benedict’s resignation. Two distinguished Italian theologians have demanded that he should withdraw his resignation, one arguing he ought not to resign, the other claiming a pope cannot resign. In the latter case, when the cardinals proceed to elect a successor they are, according to Enrico Maria Radaelli, electing an antipope, an impostor on the chair of St Peter. Let’s take a journey back into the past. It’s always fun.

Cartoon-PopeThe last resignation was 600 years ago. In 1294, the hermit, Pietro da Morrone, catupulted to the giddying heights of the papacy as “Celestine V”, mainly because the cardinals couldn’t actually agree on anyone else. Old Celestine then realised he felt the same way six months later, and “gave up”. He walked away. All he wanted was just to return to his hermitage. However, Boniface VIII (yes . . . it is a funny name, and no . . . I didn’t make it up), his successor, thought it much wiser to lock him up in a convenient castle for the rest of his life. This was obviously an effort to squish any possibility of a rallying legion of Catholics who would try to reinstate him. But Boniface didn’t get his wish, and there was a large surge of outrage at the pope. One of the arguments marshalled by Boniface’s many enemies was that, because popes could not resign, he wasn’t the legitimate heir to St Peter.

This can evidently be compared to the current situation. And the Vatican has chosen to make the matter hilariously more complicated. Benedict will actually stay on living there, in a quiet life of prayer, and will dress in white, be called the “pope emeritus” and be addressed as “Your Holiness”. Can anyone see the logic in this? The reason you can’t is because there is none.

So how did other leaders around the world view the resignation? Here are a couple of reactions . . .

Mario Monti (Italian PM): “I will treasure the touching memory of the personal and close dialogue with which the Holy Father has consented to accompany my commitment with the government.

Angela Merkel (German Chancellor): “He is and remains one of the most significant religious thinkers of our time.

obama_cartoonBarack Obama (I assume you know who he is): “The Church plays a critical role in the United States and the world, and I wish the best to those who will soon gather to choose His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’s successor.

David Cameron: “Pope Benedict has worked tirelessly to strengthen Britain’s relations with the Holy See. He will be missed as a spiritual leader to millions.”

Justin Welby (Archbishop of Canterbury): “In his visit to the UK, Pope Benedict showed us all something of what the vocation of the See of Rome can mean in practice – a witness to the universal scope of the gospel and a messenger of hope at a time when Christian faith is being called into question.

Most of this is misguided to be quite frank. See: The Pope, His Sins, And Why We Should Be Happy To See Him Go.

angels_demons12So will the next old guy in the papal chair be an anti-pope? Some may think so. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter.

In conclusion, go watch “Angels and Demons”. If you’re interested in this kind of stuff you’ll love it. If you’re very Catholic, you should still love it, or may be mildly offended I suppose. If you have no interest whatsoever in the Catholic Church or the pope, you’ll love it anyway. And if you’ve already seen it, go watch it again. (The book is also brilliant.)


Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana in 2005.

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