A reader left this comment yesterday in response to one my posts about Anne Rice's unversion:
Ever since Anne Rice's bombshell landed, church reactions, RCC and Protestant Evangelical have mirrored what any intelligent observer could have predicted, a circling of the wagons, a wrapping round of the robes of righteous indignation. Nary a word of the possible truth underlying her reasons.Right off her person was attacked. Is she the problem, or does the church need to do some serious introspection? Could there be some truth in her recorded rationale? C'mon now, at least consider what she said. This is taking on a life of its own -- better catch before it does some real damage.He'll be happy, then, to read this astounding news article that I just acquired (through dubious means, which I am not at liberty to explain), which contains earth-shattering, cosmos-quaking news:
ROME, AUGUST 10, 2010 (WYT). — A growing number of anonymous Vatican officials are confirming the shocking news that the Catholic Church will be shutting its doors worldwide within the next few weeks. The worldwide institution, allegedly founded by an obscure Jewish carpenter in the first century, will cease to exist completely, a move that could affect the lives of thousands, even millions, of people.
Although the reasons for this surprising action are many and complex, several insiders are pointing to Anne Rice's recent Facebook announcement that she is leaving Christianity as a crucial factor. "The Pope realized, after reading Ms. Rice's powerful statements online, that the game was up," admitted one high-ranking Cardinal, who insists that although the news will likely upset many Catholics, most people should have seen it coming.
"Look, let's be honest," he says, sitting in his office, wearing a polo shirt and drinking a martini, "Rice called our bluff. For centuries we thought it was enough to say, 'Believe in Christ. Come to Church. Be good. Do what you're told.' But when Rice wrote that she was remaining committed to Christ while no longer being part of Christianity..." He took a long drink and stared wistfully at a signed picture of Pope John Paul II on his wall. "...that was powerful. None of us here had ever heard of or considered such a thing."
He acknowledged that the Vatican public relations machine had once again made a major error in how it addressed—or didn't address—Ms. Rice's explosive remarks, which have been viewed by thousands of people. "It's ironic, I suppose," he said, "that a Church that essentially established and saved Western civilization, founded the first universities, helped bring about modern science, produced the greatest art and music know to mankind, built hospitals and orphanages around the world, and helped save the souls of countless millions has been unable to respond to accusations of being homophobic, misogynist, narrow-minded, hateful, bigoted, and lousy at writing hymns in an authentic folk-rock style." He paused as if trying to decide whether or not to make another martini. "I know some die-hard believers will say, 'Hey, what about Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and Leo XII? What about the libraries filled with books of philosophy, theology, philosophy, and more? Well, really, who's paying attention to that these days?"
Another Vatican official, a powerful priest with connections to major players in the U.S., Greenland, and Sweden, was a bit more circumspect. "I think Rice is getting a little too much credit. I won't deny that her arguments are ambitious and her ability to express complex philosophical and theological syllogisms in popular parlance are impressive. But Dan Brown really set the agenda and paved the way for the dismantling of the Catholic Church." Asked to explain, he shrugged sadly. "Brown brilliantly exposed the non-existence of the historical foundations of the Church. While Catholic scholars and academics have produced countless books and essays about the New Testament, first-century Palestine, and the life of Jesus, Brown went to the heart of the matter: the Gnostic gospel of Mary Magdalene. Whew...! We never saw it coming." He also mentioned the work of the "new atheists," and admitted that although Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens probably had never read a full page of Catholic philosophy in their lives, their books were "really well publicized and had striking covers. And that's nothing to sneeze upon." Asked about Sam Harris, he snorted softly, "Really, now, let's not get carried away."
Attempts to reach Mr. Brown and Ms. Rice to discuss this breaking story were unsuccessful. One literary agent said he had heard the two were actually considering writing a novel together about an albino vampire who marries goddesses and then establishes Masonic Lodges throughout the world with his offspring. Asked if he had heard anything about a possible big announcement coming from Rome, he shook his head. "I don't pay attention to Africa," he said, "And I never travel there. Too hot."
Numerous phone calls, tweets, text-messages, and discussions with reporters from the Christian Science Monitor have resulted in a half-formed but startling picture of a Vatican so obsessed with doctrine, liturgical norms, canon law, and ecclesiastical operations that it lost sight of priorities. "Feelings," one prelate stated flatly and without hesitation when approached in a small restaurant not far from St. Peter's Square. "Feelings. We simply forgot about people's emotions. Those emotions are so, so, so very important." He shook his head and waved his fork with polite exasperation. "It's so easy to get caught up in objective truth that it's easy to overlook how unnecessary that really is anymore. The CDF [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] or the Holy Father will issue a document with lots of big words and obscure references to the Bible, Church Doctors, and other Church documents, but that is so 1950s. It needs to be in 150 words of less," an apparent reference to Twitter. When told that Twitter has a limit of 140 words, he seemed both embarrassed and perplexed. "Hmmm. That really isn't very many words, is it?" [Editor's note: Both the prelate and our correspondent in Rome are incorrect. Twitter has a limit of 140 characters. We regret the error.]
The essential point, he went on to explain, is that people have finally realized that religion, especially a religion that points continually to faith and reason and even uses Latin on occasion, "cannot compete with Facebook, Twitter, and Z-Box." The Church, he noted, has long focused on ultimate questions, metaphysical issues, and moral behavior. But we now live, he observed with admirable objectivity, in a new era, when the most pressing questions are about syncing hand-held devices to computers and streaming video to iPods while driving a Prius across Europe. He explained that he himself was working hard to catch up with modernity, as he was losing his job in two weeks. "I just bought an iPad," he said proudly, "and just downloaded my first digital album: Handel's Messiah."
In a further twist, sources confirm that Pope Benedict XVI has brought in Hans Küng to help the dismantling project. "Hans has long been an advocate of a Churchless Christianity," explained a very serious Monsignor "Y", who works for a Congregation in the Vatican. "In fact, he's quite taken with a Christ-less, Churchless Christianity. However, he still thinks the papacy might be worth keeping, and he has asked if he can have dibs once the dust settles." There are indications that Küng has inquired about the possibility of bringing back the sedia gestatoria, although he reportedly insists it's only because his legs tire easily. "We like to say he takes a 'Hans-on' approach," the Monsignor said with an unexpected laugh, before glancing around quickly, as if startled by his own outburst. "Please don't publish that. I'd like to help him write volume six of his memoir."
The Monsignor also stated, without offering details, that Dr. Rowan Williams has also been contacted by the Vatican. "He has a real gift for explaining complicated matters in such a way that no one is really sure what he meant and yet everyone is sure he is completely sincere and well-intentioned about whatever it is he said." Monsignor "Y" said that Dr. Williams doesn't have everyone's support in the Curia. "The fact is, the Anglican Communion has been trying to self-destruct and dismantle for decades, and it is still around; well, sorta. Anyhow, we would like something very fast and very clean. No big messes involving endless meetings and papers and the possible involvement of the Obama administration. If we're going to have empty churches, we want them clearly identified as historical landmarks. There must be a clean break."
And what of ordinary Catholics around the world? How might they respond? A highly respected Catholic scholar who teaches Hinduism and queer studies at a Jesuit school in the U.S. has an optimistic take on the situation. "Frankly, I don't think this will change my life at all. Of course, I haven't been to Mass for 28 years. But most Catholics are ready to be Catholic in name only....although I guess they will soon be former Catholics in name only." Asked if he was aware of the role played by Anne Rice, his face brightened. "Oh yes, of course! I'm good friends with her son. I thought it was wonderful when she went on CNN and said, 'Right now I would prefer to walk away from the argument, from the confusion.' By refusing to engage with the Church's arguments and positions, she has really taken the fight to the man! I mean, being a Christian is all about love—and I love what she's doing." When asked what, exactly, Rice is doing, he hesitated. "Oh, well, I'm not sure, but that's not really the point, is it?"And what is the point of this coming shutdown of the Catholic Church? What will happen to the Sistine Chapel and all of that artwork? How many Catholics will become disciples of Anne Rice? More in Part 2, to be published in a reputable newspaper sometime very soon.