Some guy, probably Jewish with a Brooklyn accent, said, "God's a lousy playwright." The meaning for novices is clear. You can't just take real-life events and string them together and call it a story or a play. Life is baggy, shapeless, good raw material, but you have to shape it. So there's the aesthetics of the quote, which look solid.
Then there's the metaphysics of it, if you like, and they look well founded, too. It's easy to see the imperfection woven throughout the base of life. Science continues to make it look even more ugly and chaotic. And if you were God, would you let all those villains just get away with their evil? Sure, if you believe the whole Bible, they'll get roasted in Hell for all eternity. But the Old Testament is vague about the afterlife, and even the New Testament doesn't spend nearly enough space on it -- mostly in the Revelations of St. John. Now, that section is juicy and amazing, but short, given it's relationship to the rest of the book.
But. Consider the revelations of priestly pedophilia lately. These scenes are truly the work of a talented, if deeply perverse, imagination. Almost as if Jean Genet and Pasolini, up in Heaven where they surely belong, collaborated on a project.
A priest, breathing heavily, smelling slightly of sweat. He draws the seven year old boy, angelic, rosy cheeked into the Confessional (!). The boy, of course, suspects nothing. It's . . The Priest. The man with a vocation, holy, the one who calls forth the Holy Spirit, who transforms the wine and wafer into the blood and body of Christ.
This man draws him into the narrow closet. He forces the boy to suck his prick, then threatens him, tells him not to let any one know.
I mean, really. DeSade could hardly do better (and speaking of Alphonse-Donatien, there's enough sodomy in the legal documents to please even a dedicated analist and roué like him.)
You can't beat that for horror. Child rape is a crime so heinous, so vicious, so depraved and vile that it's hard to imagine another crime short of murder or cannibalism that matches it for sinfulness. That the crimes so often took place in the church itself, in places most associated with sanctity, is another touch of genius.
To add to this, let's make the children handicapped -- deaf, say. Unable to speak. Twice vulnerable. And have some bloated pervert in a collar rape more than 200 of them.
Again, this is very hard to top. But there's more -- almost as if God had Dostoyevsky whispering in his ear.
The very institution charged with moral clarity -- if nothing else, the Church has been pretty clear about the evils of, oh, birth control and abortion -- yes, the very collection of bishops and cardinals ranged in ranks like the Medieval paintings of Heaven above, these princes of the church and shepards of the flock, what do they do when confronted with incontrovertible evidence of the Sadean perversion?
Hide it. Lie about it, until the facts contradict the lies. Shuffle parishes and priests.
Beautiful plotting. For what else could you do to illuminate the festering hypocricy and cowardice of them? How better to show the abject betrayal of a mission?
I like to think of myself as hardboiled, a student of history, and therefore, of the catastrophic and unending cruelty of man. Still, the stagecraft of the pedophile priests and their supporters among the hierarchy shocked even me.
Just like a piece by some raging anarchist, someone disgusted with the filth of institutions. Someone like Alfred Jarry, for example.
So, hat's off everyone. God did a pretty good job this time out.
photo illustration: Jill Greenberg