Posted November 30, 2012 09:49 pm - Updated November 30, 2012 10:21 pm

The Pope is sitting on my desk

   The November 11th issue of the Empire had an article on page A9 with the headline:"Vatican digs in after gay marriage advances". A shorter article next to it declared, "Pope resurrects Latin with academy to boost study." I tore the page off, folded it, and set it on my desk, where it has languished for almost three weeks.
   I saw it each day and thought, "This is a good topic for my blog." The next time I saw it, there was a tap on my shoulder that cautioned, "Are you sure you want to write about the Pope?" But the article is not in the Recycle Bin, so here goes.
   Pope Benedict XVI appears to be in the same kind of bubble that King George VI was in "The King's Speech", before he began taking speech lessons from the Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue in Logue's apartment. The King had never been in a commoner’s home. He had never walked through Hyde Park with a friend.
  The sidebar story about Latin in the Empire datelined Vatican City says, "Pope Benedict XVI issued a decree Saturday (Nov. 10) creating a new pontifical academy for Latin studies to try to boost interest in the official language of the Roman Catholic Church that is nevertheless out of widespread use elsewhere." The article goes on to say, "Benedict's move is further evidence of his attempt to restore the church to its traditional roots as it battles to prevent the faithful from straying in today's increasingly secular world."
   It might do His Holiness some good to put on a swell Italian suit, some Ray Ban sunglasses, and get out amongst the people. He could order an espresso at a sidewalk cafe, and strike up a conversation with the Italians at the next table. (The pope speaks several languages, including Italian.) After the ice is broken, he could casually ask them how they feel about gay marriage for Italians, and, by the way, how do they feel about resuscitating Latin?
   If, however, neither is negotiable, then Benedict can stay home and measure the impact of his pronouncements against gay marriage (the future) and for Latin (the past).
   I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school when my parents could afford it. No matter how expensive it was for a Marine Corps Sergeant, it was their obligation to send us to Catholic school if they could find a way to do it. There were a few years, like when we lived at Camp Pendleton, California, that two of us went to the Mission San Luis Rey school one year, then went to the base school while the other two went to San Luis Rey the next year. It was hard for us to make and keep friends, but that was the way my parents saw their obligation as Catholics.
   When we were stationed in Houston, Texas, my mom taught at St. Peter's School, and I think got some of our tuition taken care of as a quid pro quo. All through 7th and 8th grade, I sang at Requiem masses in Latin up in the choir loft of St. Peter's Church. I can still sing Kyrie Eleison all the way through.
   Vatican II, which took place 50 years ago last month, was meant to change the Catholic Church to better fit the times. Latin was out, the local language was in. Priests faced the congregation more often instead of facing the altar during most of Mass.
   Catholics around the world could not eat meat on the Friday before Vatican II, but they could have hamburgers the Friday afterwards. It was no longer a sin that required confessing. I couldn't go to my Baptist friend's Bible School in September,but I could go with her in late October 1962 guilt-free.
   This was all very confusing to me as a fourteen year old. I remember very distinctly the moment when I said to myself, "The whole thing was made up." I did not say anything to my parents, but I quit the Church in my mind that day.
   So, now, here is the Pope in the year 2012 "digging in" on gay marriage when many cultures are finally accepting the reality that there are gay people who love each other and should have the right to marry. Pope Benedict wants to resurrect Latin like Lazarus from the grave. Someone should tell him what a wife would tell him: “Let it go, dear. You have much bigger fish to fry."
   Now I can finally recycle Page A9 of the November 11, 2012 Juneau Empire.


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