Smoke and Mirrors

You may have heard this story recently.

It begins with a man who drops out of the sky into a mysterious land.  There he meets some oddly dressed folks who escort him into a wondrous city where, to his astonishment, everyone wants to serve him.  Of course, nothing comes easy and behind all the wealth and privilege there are some serious problems.  The kingdom, you see, is falling apart and the people are looking to him and his power to set things right again.

So which is it, Emerald City or Vatican City?  Wizard or Pope?

I could argue that there is really not much of a difference between the two.

No one gets in to see the great and powerful Oz!  Not nobody, not no.., oh wait, there he is.

No one gets in to see the great and powerful Oz! Not nobody, not no.., oh wait, there he is.

They both arrive into their respective worlds from far-away places.  Each, we are told, is destined to take the place of a predecessor who has unexpectedly left the throne.  Both men are said to wield great power; one as a great oracle and sorcerer, and the other as God’s representative on Earth.

And each is, in his own way, a fraud.

I intend no insult.  I have nothing against this newly minted Pope Francis and I am sure that he is a very devout man of only the best intentions.  In fact, his record of playing well with other religious groups gives me some small amount of hope for the near future of global interfaith.

The reality though, is that he is also a 76-year-old place-holder.

There was clearly less “divine guidance” in the selection of this pope then there was concern with what could be termed: finding the right CEO to please the stock-holders of a troubled corporation.  The various credentials of his long career give him a certain appeal to both progressive Western Catholics who supply the church with most of it’s money and the more conservative 3rd-world congregations that supply most of it’s population and incoming priests.

Barring any surprises, he seems inoffensive enough to buy the groaning church bureaucracy a little more time before, cornered by the twin specters of corruption and fossilized dogma, it is forced into either doctrinal schism or cultural irrelevancy.

The reality is that the Pope, like a certain fictional charlatan from Kansas, has no real power of his own.  He cannot wave his hand and banish the crisis of faith caused by his church systematically enabling the sexual predators which have for years moved within it’s ranks.  Yet, with a well publicized outreach to the poor, he may draw attention away from those abuses just long enough to slow the tide of those leaving the Church for greener pastures.

Misdirection is the most powerful tool in any stage magicians kit.

Growing up, my family was Catholic (if not terribly devout) and although I never really fit properly within that religious tradition, I still have a certain nostalgic interest in what happens with the Church.  I wish only the best for this new Pontiff and for those who continue to call the Roman Catholic Church their home.

The mystery and pomp of a Papal Election along with a friendly new face under the miter certainly make for some pretty distracting spectacle.  Eventually though, the smoke and mirrors of illusion will give way to harsh reality, and one has to wonder if the conclave didn’t choose to elevate a 76 year-old man with one lung for exactly that reason.

How long will it be before someone starts counting the days, waiting for the inevitable sequel?


Filed under Culture, Interfaith, Movies, Religion

2 responses to “Smoke and Mirrors

  1. ladyimbrium

    I, too, retain some bit of nostalgia for the Church. I was raised Catholic and for a long time thought I would be able to stay there. Powerful dead? Check. Complex Godhead that allows for personal experience? Check (despite what’s being taught NOW, this was the way THEN) Immanent aspect of Spirit? Check. Teachings of compassion, generosity and acceptance? Check. (again, Then and Now don’t match) but then it all became Now and not Then… and…well… here I am. I really and sincerely do wish the Church the best. I’m not sure I count on it happening though.

  2. Morning SOD..sigh…I’ve been struggling as I’ve been inundated by local media with the installation of Francis. I was raised Roman Catholic and for many years was a faithful follower/participant until I started to wake up and realize that I was a round peg who didn’t fit into any of organized religions square hole…not even Pagan titles. I no longer fly under any one banner because I’ve learned that when you focus on one thing you can become complacent…blind to other versions of the truth. Anyhew…Francis. St Francis of Assisi is one of those people I have always held on to from my Catholic days (St Therese of Lisieux also) so when I heard/watched this whole spectacle I became hopeful. My Mom and Dad are life long devoted Catholics so I stay apprised of such things. The internal struggle with this whole change is for reasons you pointed out….the seemingly very calculated move by the “board members” to appointment a pallatable CEO to a appease shareholders, attract new ones and save a failing company. With his Argentine origins he is a perfect choice to appeal to the growing Catholic movement in Latin countries. My secret hope is that he will serve as more than a figure head and truly resonate the messages of St Francis in regards to humility, service to the less fortunate, protection of children in light of so much pedo scandal and above all else be an advocate for our natural world and it’s endangered creatures. We’ll have to see right? I too am skeptical.

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