Speechwriting for the Pope: Suggested Draft, Farewell Remarks

“The philosophy of Atheism represents a concept of life without any metaphysical Beyond or Divine Regulator. It is the concept of an actual real, world with its liberating, expanding and beautifying possibilities, against an unreal world, which, with its spirits, oracles, and mean contentment has kept humanity in helpless degradation.”

Emma Goldman

 

On the occasion of the Pope’s retirement, I provide at no charge the valedictory remarks I know he would like to make.

I envision him appearing on the familiar balcony, dressed very sharply in an Armani business suit, tie by Joseph Abboud.  Gone are the fancy, gay-looking brocades.  No cute skullcap or clunky bishop’s miter either.  No headgear at all, in fact.

He looks trim. He stands erect. Even at his advanced age, he looks healthy and at peace with himself.  He smiles, his eyes brimming with love for his flock. The audience is aghast. When they are at last silent, the Pope says:

My brothers and sisters, thank you for coming, and bless you all.  I am retiring because something wonderful and miraculous has happened to me, and it is entirely appropriate that I inform my flock of my revelation.

Revelation by important people has been a powerful force in shaping our Church doctrine, and I call upon it now.

Brothers and sisters, I prayed long and hard before deciding to announce my resignation.  Over and over, for many years, in fact, I prayed to God to show himself to me, to give me some sign that all the praying and ritual somehow mattered to him.

For most of my 85 years, I prayed.  Actually, at first I prayed to God to prevent the ravages of age, so that I could continue to be your Pope for many more decades.  I prayed quite earnestly but my  prayer, obviously, was not answered, and I stand before you a weak and tired old man.

 Up to now, I’ve said that my resignation was due to my advanced age, but now I confess that I implied that because I was ashamed – ashamed before you, my flock – to tell you the real reason: After decades of praying, of talking to and about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, whatever that is, and never receiving any sign whatsoever that God heard my prayers, I have allowed doubt – or, more positively, reason – to enter my world-view. 

That doubt is now so strong that, even though I lacked the courage at first to tell you, I can now say it: I am resigning because…

I cannot believe in any of it any more.

Let me repeat that: I cannot believe the Church’s teachings, the whole demented fantasy, for one more day.

Along with that, I can no longer turn a blind eye to the Church’s evil, oppression, and immorality.  I will carry with me to my grave a heavy burden of guilt for the Church’s long list of sins against humanity: prohibiting contraception in a world where the population growth is out of control, meddling in your most personal decisions, covering for its child-molesting priests, condemning you to eternal agony for infractions of its arbitrary rules, and much more. 

The ideological foundation of all of this is insane.  This is my revelation. 

It cannot be true. The ravings of ancient and mediaeval scribblers are just stories that have little or no relevance to our lives today.  Their morality is primitive.  Their hatred of homosexuals and women is unconscionable.

It is impossible that a god impregnated a woman without having sex with her, then was born as his own son, who then sacrificed himself if he, the father, would forgive all humanity for their sins. It makes no sense, even as a story.

 What is much more likely is that the Church -- body, substance, and doctrine -- was created by Paul and other early Christian writers.  They made up the events of Jesus’ life after proclaiming him the Messiah, because people thirsted for details. 

The inventors of Jesus’ biography weren’t terribly original, because Jesus’ story closely resembles that of many other Middle Eastern demigods: you have no doubt not been told that other peoples worshipped other semi-divinities, who were born of a virgin, killed by being nailed to a cross or tree, came back from the dead after three days, and so on.

[PAUSE]

Here is the message I send by resigning:  Let this be the beginning of the end for the Catholic Church as we know it.  Between now and the effective end of my tenure, I will take the first steps towards a new Reformation, which I will outline for you now.

Wherever possible, clerics of every rank are to divest themselves, buy new clothes, and find whatever productive jobs they can. I do not expect that this will be easy or inexpensive.  But it is necessary. The church will pay for their transition and re-education as needed – or provide a pension for their retirement, if they are too old to obtain other employment.

They can, if they desire, remain with their churches, which may still function as centers for social services and social justice.  We will remove all the religious paraphernalia, including the horrendous and ghastly portrayals of Jesus bleeding on the cross.  Children should not have to see this celebration of death. What remains of the Catholic Church will be an affirmation of life, fueled by the enormous wealth we have accumulated.

Just as we once urged the beating of swords into plows, let us turn our wealth into good. 

[PAUSE]

I asked God to reveal himself to me just once, after all my years of devotion, and he did not.  I prayed long and hard.  I obeyed God’s commandments as I understood them, unflinchingly, allowing no doubt of or diversion from the true path.

But  I could not turn away from the evil and suffering in the world, much of it caused by the Catholic Church, today and in centuries past, when it conducted Inquisitions and Crusades.

My brothers and sisters, I can come to only one conclusion: it is all a sham, everything has been done by human beings alone, no prayers are answered, God does not exist…yet: we can all, on our own, be very, very good and kind people without any of the unnecessary fantasies and humiliating prayers. We can still have our Christmas and Easter, but we simply recognize them as the primitive, seasonal festivals that they are.

It follows that none of the miraculous, impossible events in the Bible really happened.  How could they? Either they violate the laws of physics, or there’s no evidence – or both.

Jesus may or may not have existed, but who cares? He had some things to teach us, but so do philosophers and spiritual leaders from many cultures and religions.

It really doesn’t matter whether people are Catholics, so we can stop wasting time praying, confessing, saying mass, and seeking converts. Just living a good, loving life is hard enough. The Muslims can’t even stop killing each other over their competing fantasies. I think that would be a good first step.

Therefore, I now proclaim the transformation and commitment of the Catholic Church to a new, humanistic Christianity, one that honors, above all things, human dignity, human individuality, and human choice.

For far too long, we have used stories and myths as excuses to wreak untold human misery and to give ourselves unique access to an imagined afterlife. No more.

No longer will we let ancient texts tell us how to interfere in the personal lives of Catholics. Our priests may counsel, but so do therapists and many other kinds of people. We are our own salvation, my brothers and sisters; only we can save ourselves. This is my message to you today.

In the weeks ahead, I will be announcing the massive — but extremely positive — changes that will result from my revelation. Believe me, brothers and sisters, it is a new freedom that I bring to you: the freedom of not having to believe in fantasies…the freedom of never again having to worry about what God wants, or thinks, or means in this or that Bible passage.

As of this moment, we are free of all that.

Instead, we will continue to use our churches (those that we do not close) as centers for personal improvement and social outreach. The only difference is that we will not be praying. In fact, all of our so-called sacred and holy objects will be sold, and the monies used to further the social projects of the Church.

Isn’t that wonderful? They’re just trinkets, but we can still use them to do good! In fact, I have very exciting plans for the Church to divest itself of its vast wealth and to use it to relieve human misery throughout the world.

We have been advised to sell our worldly goods and follow the humble teacher. Today, at last, we begin to do that.

The vestments I was going to wear today, and my entire Papal wardrobe, will be listed for auction on eBay, starting today. Think of all the food and medicine they alone would buy!

The same will happen, in every parish worldwide, with every non-functional bit of flamboyant sartorial finery with which we have preoccupied ourselves for so long.

We have been MUCH too obsessed with playing dress-up. In truth, we clerics are ordinary but self-respecting human beings, and we will henceforth clothe ourselves as such.

Most importantly, starting today, all the time that was formerly devoted to worship and ritual will now be used either for personal or social enrichment, for improving human relations and loving each other, as every religion teaches. Individual congregations can decide how to do this.

And let us freely invite people of all other faiths to come to our churches and join us in our bold adventure.

My brothers and sisters, this is a new day for Catholicism. It’s a better day. We must, as the Bible instructs, “put away childish things” and go forward together, to create freedom, build brotherhood, make peace, and find the truth.

Brothers and sisters, trust me when I say that there is no room for doubt in this great venture. Once you receive the revelation from me, there’s no going back.  And remember, I am…INFALLIBLE!

I now go in peace, and I ask that you all do the same. Vivat veritas! Long live the truth!”

 

I know: pretty far-fetched. But a guy can dream.

Views: 122

Tags: Catholicism, Pontiff, Pope, humanism, religion

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Comment by Alan Perlman on February 16, 2013 at 8:57pm

See, this is why we'll never understand how the human brain does what it does.  It is capable of presenting delusions, to itself, as reality.

Thanks for the link.  Your/our plotline is scarier.

Comment by Loren Miller on February 16, 2013 at 11:54am

Of course they rationalize their past and actions and transgressions.  They're "serving a higher calling," don't you know?  Their predictable problem is that they can't see the forest for all those gol-darn TREES!  They can't see that they've done more harm than good, been about serving themselves more than serving humanity (and when they DO manage to serve humanity, they do it far less efficiently than most charitable organizations do).  Most of all, they can't admit to the LIE which is at the core of their teaching.  They can't see their bible for the ugly and self-contradicting garbage that it is ... and that they are in it for the power that lie give them over the average Joe.

And as to the concept of the pope getting real about the wealth of the church and how best to deal with the needs of the world, it's been done:  Morris West's The Shoes of the Fisherman.

Comment by Alan Perlman on February 16, 2013 at 11:29am

Loren...Good plot developments!  I see Max von Sydow as the Pontiff.  Maybe Quenton Tarantino as director.  Pope as apostate would create tremendous PR/organizational problems, which would be very hard for the Cardinals (or whoever steps in) to handle.

Joan...I'm always fascinated by power pyramids and the way the person at the very top holds the whole thing together.   He/she has to be the truest of true believers.  If the faith of the top person fails, esp. with religions and other cults, the whole thing may fall apart.

Somehow the Catholic Church rationalizes its awful past.  I don't know how, but it works.  I wonder what they tell modern Catholics who question the murders, torture and persecution.  Or may it's just a case of "don't ask, don't tell."

Thnaks for reading and for your kind comments.

Comment by Joan Denoo on February 15, 2013 at 4:24pm

Oh Yes! A very nice bit of speech writing. Kind of reminds me of my for-ever-favorite TV show, the West Wing. How that script inspired me! Dream on. 

Someday there will be an expose of the Vatican that can survive the killers of information, and it will be a sordid story, indeed. Just by reading a little history, even if it is told as a grandiose blast of pride, reveals awful things ... we just don't pay attention to them. The burnings and  tortures are well known, especially as it had to do with ideas, and yet some cling to their faith as if it were something worthy of following. 

Disgusting! Deplorable! I refute the whole lot of them ... religious, I mean. 

Comment by Loren Miller on February 15, 2013 at 3:53pm

I suspect that Vatican City has a sufficient understanding of subtlety to engineer a disappearing act for any pope who would dare to give such a speech.  Any serious action would happen away from the prying eyes of the public, to maintain the (supposedly) upstanding character of the Vatican.  Later, we would hear about the pope's fragile mental and physical state, how he was hospitalized for his own safety and kept away from reporters.  It's entirely possible that said pontiff would never see the public light of day again, while a quietly conducted campaign of discrediting him was carried out.

The only way a pope might get away with such a speech is by setting the table beforehand, making sure that the Swiss Guard was on hand to guard him against any reaction from his subordinates.  Other preemptive action would doubtless be necessary ahead of time to enable him to maintain his position of power while disempowering staff and associates from reacting against his wishes.

The Vatican may be headed by the pope, but the power wielded by the Vatican is in multiple hands, some of which are VERY used to having that power and loathe to relinquish it.

Comment by Alan Perlman on February 15, 2013 at 3:35pm

John, I think I see the beginning of an alternate-history movie here, one that atheists would flock to see.  Of course the old man being dragged away would be on CNN, and in minutes the world knows about it.  Then what?

Comment by Alan Perlman on February 15, 2013 at 9:54am

Loren & Joan...Thanks so much for the kind words. After 25 years of earning money writing speeches that people wanted to deliver, I'm having a lot more fun writing ones that the speaker should deliver but won't.

Loren, I read the entire quote.  LIke all great aphorisms, it says a great deal in a very few words.  This part --

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

-- has many applications throughout history.  Its truth is demonstrated by centuries of Jewish suffering: they put up with it, so their tormenters went right ahead and did it, gas chambers included.

Religion may suffer individual defections, and some societies are becoming more secular, but its hold on the poor and ignorant (2/3 of the world) is unshakable. 

 

Comment by John Aultman on February 15, 2013 at 9:41am

As soon as his handlers figured out where he was going with his farewell remarks he would be dragged away and a statement from the Vatican would be that Pope Benedict XVI died of natural causes.  All requests for the autopsy would be denied.

Comment by Joan Denoo on February 15, 2013 at 2:34am

Loren, sadly, you are correct, people give religion power. Well, people can take back their own power to think and reason and act with care and compassion. 

Comment by Joan Denoo on February 15, 2013 at 2:32am

Alan! Perfect!  Just exactly what Earth needs the pope to say and the congregations to hear! Oh! what a different world we would have if such an instruction were given. 
Well, he won't say those things, but we can proclaim that faith in god and belief in supernatural powers nonexistent. Loud and publicly! The words roll across the mountains, into the valleys, and religious tyranny becomes weaker!

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