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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Devil Cites Scripture for His Own Purpose

I don't know whether it's arrogance or stupidity (or both), but ever since the Catholic church's kiddy-fucking proclivities became public knowledge, our clerical chums have shown a distinct lack of nous when it comes to their public statements. Most of these came from the lower ranks, but occasionally the higher-ups manage it too (this being my favourite from recent times). Even so, I was prepared (for some reason) to give the Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin the benefit of the doubt, and assumed he was the victim of lazy quoting by the Irish Times when they reported on his homily during the Law Mass yesterday. I was, it seems, a trifle naïve.

A brief aside: once again, the Irish Times makes me go in search of something that could've been easily linked to from the web page; there were no fewer than three instances of that in today's edition. Really, Madame Editor, can you not convince your minions in the online department that there's more to the web than just regurgitation of the dead-tree content? Is it so hard to provide links that'll provide context? Even when the story refers to a web site, there's no hint of a link.

Anyway, the homily made a lot of sense from an aspirational point of view, when he went on about the tower of Babel -- and in particular when he used the phrase "intellectual greed" -- I bristled. And so I had a quick read of the homily in its entirety. It was actually worse than I thought.

First of all, let's look at this appalling phrase "intellectual greed"; it harkens back to the good old days when the church regarded itself as the repository of all knowledge, and preferred to keep the people reliant on the priests. It's the sort of thing Vatican II was supposed to address. It seems, though, that old habits die hard. It may be that I'm misinterpreting the phrase, and he's talking about something other than a thirst for knowledge, but I'm at a loss to come up with a reasonable alternative.

Then he said this:
Those who set out to build the Tower of Babel hoped that they would be able on their own to build a tower which would reach God himself: “Let us build a tower with its top in the heavens”, they said, “let us make a name for ourselves”.
"Let us make a name for ourselves." In modern parlance, this of course means that our hapless builders wanted to be famous, that they were building the tower out of a sense of personal aggrandisement. But that's not what the passage says (it's Genesis 11:1-9, in case your wondering). It wasn't the Irish Times that was quoting out of context; it was the Archbishop.

The passage tells us that the tower was an attempt at unifying the people; to give them a common identity. God, being a dick, didn't like this, and especially didn't like the idea that "nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do". So one could imagine that the Archbishop was following God's thoughts on the topic, but imparted his wisdom in such a way that it seems like it was hubris that was being punished.

Another aside: the Holy Spirit didn't do much to stop this line making it into the text: "They loose contact with the reality of what human and societal growth is really about".

If you'll pardon an allusion to the Fast Show, pointing out hypocrisy in the Church is very much like making love to a beautiful woman. You get all worked up and spend a fair amount of time giving it your all, looking for just the right way to use your tongue (or, indeed, fingers) to maximum effect. You soon realise, though, that you're far from alone in this activity, and that all over the world, millions are probably engaged in that self-same activity at that moment.That knowledge, though, doesn't stop you from carrying on, or from making it any less satisfying.

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