Columns 2015

It was a bad week

It was a pretty horrible week, one that even the distribution of dividend checks couldn’t save. After all, we know the state is broke, our checks are likely to never be bigger than this year’s, and we will probably soon be using the Permanent Fund to keep state government afloat. So while our legislators pondered how two minus four somehow equaled plus zero, the rest of the country looked on in horror at the latest school massacre. And a vast majority of liberals who thought the pope was in their back pocket found out, to their extreme dismay, that he is still very much a Catholic. Yep, it was a helluva week.

I could go on at some length about gun violence in this country. I could go on at even greater length about the sensible gun control legislation that keeps schools safe in most other first world countries. But that would go against our Wild West heritage and, even worse, might anger the NRA. And we wouldn’t want to do that because, as bullies go, you don’t get much more obnoxious than those vocal members of that group who feel we should just arm everyone so we can continue our grand tradition of shoot outs. Remember moms, when you pack your second grader’s lunch, make sure to put his loaded gun in so he can protect himself from the next mass murderer – or the kid sitting next to him who stole his pencil.

Nothing will happen after this school massacre. And nothing will happen after the next one either. It’s no wonder that some in Mexico look at America and think we are being a bit hypocritical in calling Mexico a violent country.  When it comes to school shootings, we mostly resemble a country with girls’ schools surrounded by fundamentalist Muslims who think girls shouldn’t get an education. So they freely enter the school and slaughter the students. American shooters may not always have a religious reason for their massacres, but that is small comfort to the parents who are burying their children.

As for the pope, I find myself seriously worried about anyone on either side of the political spectrum who thought this pope would fit nicely into some prepackaged persona. He is, above all else, the world’s foremost Catholic. As such, he is going to be opposed to divorce, abortion, anything gay, and eating meat on fast days. Sorry folks, that’s just the way he rolls. The Catholic Church is very monolithic when it comes to its doctrines.

Of course, anyone who knows a Catholic – and trust me you do, they are everywhere hiding in plain sight – knows that Catholics do not necessarily all march in lockstep to the demands of Rome. That’s why Il Papa must make some reconciliatory gestures to those currently condemned to eternity in hell based on Catholic teachings. Problem is, the church is having trouble keeping its diverse flock all on the same page and is consequently bleeding members. Some become the infamous cafeteria Catholics. Reaching out to them while upholding the strictest interpretation of conservative Catholic theology is this pope’s genius. Unfortunately, his genius also raises unrealistic expectations that the church will modernize. It won’t. The priesthood will remain an all boys club despite the sex abuse scandals or the fact that Jesus had many women among his disciples. Divorce will continue to be a one-way ticket to hell and the church will continue to apologize for its many unfortunate transgressions like any of the Borgia popes or the Inquisition.

I am heading out for two weeks into a remote part of the world where Internet access is iffy at best and people are more concerned with paying for tomorrow’s meals than paying for eternity. It will be a nice break to be with people who are not so much concerned with where their souls will go after death as they are with where they can go to live their lives in some semblance of peace and security. My column will return in two weeks, assuming I survive the twenty-four hours of flying. As one friend said to me, “Why don’t you just plan to go straight to the ER from the plane when you return?”

That friend will not be sharing my heaven, no matter what the pope says.