From the sublime to the ridiculous—that’s the news this week. But there is a common link. Can you see it?
Two well-promoted British atheists, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens announced that they are paying lawyers to draw up a legal argument to persuade a British magistrate to issue an arrest warrant for Pope Benedict XVI, accusing him of complicity in covering up the sexual abuse of children. Is it imaginable that the Pope could actually land in the docket before a British judge over his role in trying to keep quiet decades worth of allegations about Catholic priests’ sexual assault or molestation of children?
As an institution, the Roman Catholic Church has always tried to wash its dirty laundry solely within the opaque walls of the Vatican. In this their non-transparent behaviour is no different at all from, say… multi-national oil corporations, investment bankers, or pesticide/pharmaceutical manufacturers who face their own egregious moral lapses or ethical failures from time to time. But, the Catholic Church is quite different from these secular mega-companies in at least one crucial legal point. The pope is the only absolute monarch left in Europe who has his own sovereign mini-state known as the State of the Vatican City. The pope, of course is also the head of the Holy See, the Roman church’s global-girdling administrative hierarchy. The bottom-line is that Pope Benedict XVI is the absolute boss of the most unusual, long-running church/state combo entity that the world has ever witnessed.
The power that the popes in Rome have exercised over the centuries ought to give Dawkins and Hitchens a little pause! In medieval times popes could easily humble the most powerful European kings and emperors. In more modern days Joseph Stalin once dismissed the power of the Vatican with the comment, “How many divisions does the Pope command?” However, Stalin’s successors might disagree with old Joe considering the Catholic Church’s powerful role in engineering the collapse of the Soviet Union’s domination of eastern Europe. Historically speaking, crossing a pope took a lot of guts—Henry VIII’s sort of guts—because it was extremely dangerous to do so. I doubt Benedict XVI thinks of himself as accountable in any way to lowly secular British courts or Church of England ecclesiastical courts!
Still, there are hardy journalists siding with the unrepentant, hell-for-leather team of Dawkins and Hitchens who maintain that if crimes have been committed, then there must be an accounting—even if it means arresting the Pope. I never thought I’d be offering this dynamic duo of atheism an encouraging word, but good luck, boys!
Moving on…. It would appear that Karla Homolka, an honest-to-God blood-sucking Canadian vampire, has a good chance of being pardoned for her crimes this summer by the National Parole Board. As you remember, Homolka negotiated a sweet deal that got her charged only with manslaughter by the government in exchange for her testimony against her ex-husband Paul Bernardo about the early 1990s rape-murders in St. Catharines, Ontario, of the teenagers Kristen French, Leslie Mahaffy and even Homolka’s own sister, Tammy. Videotapes found after the “Deal with the Devil” was struck revealed Homolka to be a willing and active participant in the rape-murders. The names of Homolka and Bernardo are forever linked in the public’s mind with depravity of the worst sort. Their crimes are the stuff of screaming, bed-soaking nightmares. An old-fashioned word to accurately describe Homolka and Bernado is wicked.
However, our legal system of pardons for past crimes will be available for Karla Homolka to wipe clean her record from all police databases. For many Canadians linking the word “pardon” with Homolka is obscene, a travesty of justice. The Conservative government is vowing to introduce legislation this fall to tighten the system in regards to sex offenders. Unfortunately, Homolka should be able to get her pardon before the legislation is enacted. Is our legal system just anymore? Criminals of the worst sort are literally getting away with murder.
Meanwhile in Iran, Islamic cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi made the news on April 16th for this comment:
Many women who do not dress modestly… lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which [consequently] increases earthquakes.
The Islamic cleric’s comments spawned a reaction from outraged feminists, some 43,000, who signed up on Facebook to hold a “boobquake” day to see if an earthquake will really follow their scheduled showing off of their cleavage. Will God create an earthquake to punish us if 43,000 woman decide to strut their low-cut stuff for a day?
All three stories that appeared in the news this week have a common thread. The thread is justice—perhaps our frustration about the lack of justice in our society. We don’t seem to understand what justice is anymore and its function in our society. Read what the prophet Isaiah wrote some 2,700 years ago. He might as well have been writing about our day:
8 They don’t know where to find peace
or what it means to be just and good.
They have mapped out crooked roads,
and no one who follows them knows a moment’s peace.
9 So there is no justice among us,
and we know nothing about right living.
We look for light but find only darkness.
We look for bright skies but walk in gloom.
10 We grope like the blind along a wall,
feeling our way like people without eyes.
Even at brightest noontime,
we stumble as though it were dark.
Among the living,
we are like the dead. (Isaiah 59 New Living Translation)
But the purpose of this column is not to express frustration, but hope. You see, the great hope of those who believe in the Hebrew and Greek scriptures is that there is a world tomorrow that will right what is wrong. To bring justice to this earth is going to take a real miracle. But the prophet Isaiah foresaw that there is a person unlike any other who is coming who will establish justice. This person is known as the Messiah.
1 Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—
yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
2 And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 He will delight in obeying the Lord.
He will not judge by appearance
nor make a decision based on hearsay.
4 He will give justice to the poor
and make fair decisions for the exploited.
The earth will shake at the force of his word,
and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked.
5 He will wear righteousness like a belt
and truth like an undergarment. (Isaiah 11 New Living Translation)
So, when you read the news, today, remember that there is coming a big change. A good change. This will be a time when entrenched bureaucracies will not be able to get away with covering up systematic sexual abuse no matter how powerful they are. It will be a time when the vile and base will no longer be able to pull the wool over the eyes of those entrusted with administering justice. It will also be a time when our daily behaviour, including what we wear, say, and do will reflect the way of peace, good, and light. Isn’t that really good news for a change?