And thus, this morning, I remember the existentialist French author Albert Camus who once observed in essence, if not exact quoting, "Men climb onto the cross in order to be seen from a greater distance."
And in that connection, I remember an aging Zen teacher's remark when challenged about the money charged to earnest, and often impecunious, students who wanted to attend Zen retreats and other events. Shouldn't the Dharma (truth) be taught for free? Should the well-intentioned and energetic be charged so much? "Oh yes!" the Zen teacher (Yasutani, perhaps?) replied to the implicit criticism, "Charge them a lot. That way they'll imagine the Dharma is worth something."
The matter of money is always a touchy subject in the realm of (wo)man's "better angels." The fact that spiritual life has to find a means to keep the lights on is seldom in play in these august realms. And then, as the money rolls in, having a well-feathered nest is really quite pleasant, comfortable and becomes what the recipient must surely deserve. Oooops ... a life of poverty ain't all it's cracked up to be. As a result, institutions like the Vatican become the wealthiest in the world and ... wouldn't you know it ... the corruption sets in and the Christians were right: "The love of money is the root of all evil." The world of modesty and humility and simplicity is upended and ... well, you know who gets fucked in this scenario.
Today, the pope issued a letter to the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics admitting the Vatican "showed no care for the little ones." The latest iteration of priestly sexual abuse disgust had finally reached the high seat of the church that had been known to climb onto the cross from time to time. It had already been clear to anyone with two brain cells to rub together that the fish stinks from the head down, but assailing long-held beliefs is no easy matter. If the family priest was the arbiter of a good and worthy life, then calling out priests and their handlers was a shudder at the foundations of very personal "better angels" construction.
And you know who gets fucked in the end, right?
Is there any institutionalized organization that can sidestep its interconnectedness with the powers of darkness, or whatever we're supposed to call them? I doubt it. And yet the human yearning to touch the earth, to be capable and aware in the world of "better angels" is profound. If you doubt it, check out the spires in the community where you live. "No rich person ever got that way by being nice." And the tentacles of being not-nice are not lost on the rich. Something is missing. "If I'm so rich, how come I'm not happy?" Hell is reserved for the not-nice. How about a church to assert a kinder, gentler means of existence?
And so the world turns. Now the pope is forced (donors are shying away in the latest concern with priestly abuse) to concede the obvious. The institution rests on sandy, if ornate, soil. They needed the money and now they have it and the price begins to show its fangs. You can't cloister sexual desire without first confronting it. So ... the lies, the cover-ups, the homosexual and heterosexual urges rise like bread dough on a counter. We will be celibate ... sort of ... maybe a little bit ... but just a little manipulation of the credulous seems hardly worthy of note. The institution mandated celibacy and, well, who doesn't want to get his or her jollies off? The Vatican goofed, but it kept the lights on and then some.
Nor, as American president Donald Trump might counter, were other institutions exempt from the we-are-who-is attitude that no institution seems capable of escaping. Everyone wants to be noticed (hence, perhaps, the crucifixion) and everyone else would like to point out the hypocrisy ... which simply cannot be sidestepped.
Ranting about promises made and subsequently left unkept -- even the wonderful riff on religion by American comedian George Carlin -- is not the point here. Acknowledging the connection between better angels and nagging trolls is more important ... though not transmissable. "Better angels" may be worth the price of admission, but the price is worth examining a little. "Better angels" don't come cheap.
I doubt if the pope can straighten out centuries of habit at the Vatican, nor can I see how he might do it, short of rewriting the celibacy statutes that have guided the church in the past. I can imagine a phalanx of worthies willing to short-circuit any attempt to redirect a gravy-train of yore. Poisoning always seems to excite the admiration of those in high places. Even a Jesuit like Pope Francis cannot outrun a dollop of polonium.
But at least he sounded what appears to be fair warning to those whose skirts are not exactly skirts. Will the pope follow-up? Maybe ... but, based on the historical record ... maybe not.