14 April 2010

God is, in fact, a pretty good playwright

It's a lesson you learn early in the how-to-write-a-play manual.

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


  1. nice one. rage is exactly what you should feel when confronted with such indelible evil.

  2. I don't want to defend the Catholic Church or the Pope or God, but...the Pope ain't God. The church ain't God (regardless of what the Catholic's believe).

    Rage all you want against the crimes because they are horrific. But God's a straw man here, yes?

    And it doesn't take God: the Greeks, Romans, Germanic tribes, heck English boarding schools....

    These are men, plain and simple. Evil men, yes, but men. Men in power. Go back to any culture you want where men are in power and pedophilia is rampant. It's about expressing male power over other males, weaker males, using a very violent form of sexuality (one would ask is there any other kind for males....). The cover up is complicity and tradition in that system. Male traditions built on male violence. Utter bullshit of course, but we of the dangling appendage revel in it.

  3. Pedophilia is a fact of life, of course, just like murder, violence, and so on.

    (And pedophilic rape is an act that is not exclusively male by the way - if you looked at the horrific prison report about the abuse of juveniles in American prisons, you'll find that the FEMALE guards raped the children as well).

    Also, girls as young as five were raped, so the victims were not exclusively male, either.
    What I most object to in all this is the simple lack of humanity on the part of the pederastic priest's colleagues and supervisors.

    If I knew someone was raping children -- and the evidence in many of these cases is incontrovertible -- I would turn that person into the police. I would do it to protect children. I do not at all consider myself particularly virtuous or moral; it just seems like the right and relatively easy thing to do.

    Now, even if I were a blinkered priest in utter fealty to my Church, I would still ensure that the pederast were de-frocked and removed from my beloved institution. That seems like the very, very least one could do. It would not be pleasant, but it would be an easy way to save face and get the priest out of a protected position. The bishops do not seem to have even taken that feeble step.

    Granted, you're never going to have a perfect institution or culture in a world full of imperfect people.

    However, even my robust cynicism moves to outrage when a putatively beneficial group essentially sanctifies the rape of children -- the crime, by the way, that puts you on the very bottom rung in prison. Being a 'short eyes' is the lowest of the low to even murdering scum. How it avoids that status within the realm of a church beggars description.

    What I was trying to get at, is that God created a scenario so vile, so obviously fucked up and wicked in vivid black and white, wrong and right, that it's impossible to make a defense of it. And yet, that's what Ratzinger and the rest of the cardinals are mostly doing.

    It's not news that the church has served its own survival rather than its flock for centuries. But in a lot of cases, you can say that that institutional preservation is benign, or understandable, or even arguably okay.
    What the raping priests and their accessories to the crime show is that there is simply utter corruption at the core of the institution, thanks, again to to vivid scripting of Our Lord.

    I'm not at all reflexively anti-religious, and I find people like Christopher Hitchins and Richard Dawkins kind of tiresome on the subject -- they exhibit a tone-deafness in a way.
    But in this case, I hope they're able to put the pope in the dock and in prison. I see no difference between the pope and that ringleader in Belgium who made pornographic movies of eight year olds being raped, and then distributing them on the Net.
    The Pope, as a hypocrite and betrayer, is by his own set of values, very much worse.

    (I'd say Greek pederasty, at least in the Classical era, was very much a different practice, too.)

  4. I agree it's evil, etc. I'm not arguing with you on that point. I like where you're going. You're pushing my narrative buttons. And I respect you and that brain of yours, so these are more questions like....well: why call this a divine narrative or say that god set it up?

    On narrative (my true religion), I don't see god's scripting, I see a protestant/WASPish scripting. Everything you're saying seems to me what Luther or his legion of imitators said and why protestants called (or still do i guess) the Catholic Church the antichrist. It smells like post-reformation theological dankness.

    I guess the idea or notion that we should expect moral behavior from the Church comes not from God or something out there but from post-Lutheran ethics and a particular set of failures in narrative stemming from Aristotle to Aquinas (the failure of the principle of analogy)--that there's an analogous relationship between a non-divine and a divine narrative. One might make this simpler by saying a Platonic relationship in which this "ought" to reflect that. But that's Aristotle and then Aquinas and yadda, yadda, Luther, yadda on down the ages using "natural law" and whatnot. It has nothing to do with a "divine narrative" if such a thing exists. It has to do with justifying man's ways to God, to crib from and reverse Milton.

    If you look at other narratives: Freud in Totem and Taboo or Moses and Monotheism, or Rene Girard's work on mimetic theory, or the Catholic theologian James Allison, you see a wide variety of ways in which the current violence of the church comes down through social taboos and neuroses, from exogamy and sexual taboos, from homophobia and homosocial displacement. It just doesn't follow for me that any of this is related to "god's scripting" whatever that might mean.

  5. Yeah, but my point is more that God is a punk-ass faggot writer of genius, not a . . . Lutheran.

    Think of the shit-stinking fingers in the rectory/rectum of an afternoon. Metaphoric richness beyond compare. the odor of sanctity indeed. My friend, we are in Genet terror story/territory here, a satirical strike.

    Actually, I think you're giving me credit for more sophistication than I brought to this post.

    I don't really mean to hold the Church to a moral principle, nor do I expect anything out of it other that the usual mix of greed, selfishness, and cowards sprinkled with moments of help, compassion, education, goodness. The nuns and priests of Caritas, for example, try to do good work. It's a human institution, and therefore, fallible.

    No, what I'm asking that the church follows the law. Short of that, that it expeditiously investigates accusations of child rape and when confronted with a preponderance of evidence, defrocks the priest.

    This is an institution and a leadership that is quite zealous about policing doctrinal issues. See Hans Kung's article here:


    The hierarchy gets stuff done quickly when they want to. Or when they care about an issue.

    Eh, still not quite getting your point, though. Divine/Platonic vs the muddled real??