Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Titles I Wish I'd Written: Miracle Whip, Pope John Paul II, Self-Punishment, and The Fast Track To Sainthood

Paul Gorrell's title for his Religion Dispatches article about the revelations that Pope John Paul II practiced self-flagellation--"Miracle Whip: Pope John Paul II, Self-Punishment, and The Fast Track To Sainthood"--is brilliant.  Especially when those promoting the narrative of JPII's self-flagellation seem to think that stories about his whip are miraculously going to convince us that the former pope was outstanding in holiness.

As Gorrell points out, belief in the virtue of physical self-abnegation is rooted in the body-soul dualism that Christianity inherits not from its Jewish roots, but from the Graeco-Roman world in which it first took shape as a religion.  Gorrell also notes that there is an ironic--and dangerous--connection between beliefs about self-mastery and the desire to master others, between the glorification of practices of self-abuse and the easy acceptance of abuse of others.

And so it's important, as Gorrell points out, to connect the dots between the glorification of JPII's miracle whip and the easy excusing of acts of horrific sexual abuse committed by priests against children.  It may be no accident at all that the church which gave us the self-flagellating pope with his miracle whip is the same church that has brought us the cover-up of child rape.