Volume IV, Issue 18 | May 05 – 11, 2005
PERSPECTIVE/ SNIDE LINES Ceci N’est Pas Une Pope
In a striking display of religious absolutism, an American photojournalist on assignment in Rome appears to have been bitten by the pope.
“I couldn’t believe it,” gasped Clyde Lichtenloafer, a 15-year employee of the Bergen County Record. “I was supposed to cover the pope’s installation for the Style section. So I went up to His Holiness on bended knee to get a shot of his gown, and the man reached down and bit me—hard—on the shoulder. Then he straightened up and continued blessing people, as if nothing had happened.”
Although a papal installation has traditionally been a beatific event, filled with bounteous grace and harmony, what the pope allegedly bestowed on Lichtenloafer was no love bite. According to doctors at the Mount Sinai Medical Center, to which Lichtenloafer was immediately flown, the wound required 17 stitches.
“That man has jaws of steel—he tore through the shoulder pad of a perfectly good Ralph Lauren blazer, right into my rotator cuff,” stated Lichtenloafer, on his way out of the emergency room.
“I should have asked the ER for a rabies shot,” Lichtenloafer added, displaying the wit that, 25 years ago, made him the most popular male homosexual at Our Lady of Immaculate Brassieres High School in the Bronx.
Although the Catholic church itself has remained silent on the question, pundits and theologians have been debating the reason for the Pope’s bizarre act. Erstwhile CBS news anchor Dan Rather took a cautious, middle-of-the-road perspective. “They say it’s news when man bites dog. It’s even bigger news when the man is a dentist. But when the man is the pope and the dog is a man—well, let’s all pray that this doesn’t mean the 78-year-old pope’s second-childhood will include another stint in the Hitler Youth.”
“Oh shut up, Dan,” conjectured Ann Coulter, one of the chief right-wing architects of the American culture wars. “Anyone, including the pope, could see that this reporter is a screaming nellie queen, who met dental retribution through the divine intercession of Benedict XVI. God is telling us, Dan, that if we don’t start condemning gay marriage, birth control, condoms to prevent AIDS, abortion and women in the clergy, He will bite us into tiny pieces, masticate us into a liquefied goo and vomit us all into hell’s toilet.”
“I’ve never really thought of God as bulimic,” quipped Alexander Cockburn, columnist at The Nation. “Maybe somebody should inform Jane Fonda.”
“Straight, gay, who cares? I’m in pain, here,” groaned Lichtenloafer, obviously dissatisfied with the ongoing analysis. “Why can’t somebody say that people just don’t go around biting people? It’s morally wrong.”
Is it? In October 1986 pope-to-be Joseph Ratzinger issued what came to be known as the “Halloween Letter,” which described homosexuality as both an “intrinsic moral evil” and an “objective disorder.” The letter also contained a warning that, when homosexual activity is tolerated, “neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.”
Seen in this light, the pope’s “violent reaction” could be construed as a reasonable response to Lichtenloafer’s intrinsic state of moral— i.e., homosexual—evil.
“That pope is pretty infallible for a Catholic,” asserted fundamentalist minister Jerry Falwell. “He bit the sinner simply because, according to religious dictum, he could get away with it.”
Ecclesiastical reasoning such as this is already finding its way into various strata of foreign policy. Some indicted war criminals are gathering exculpatory evidence to show that the massacres they allegedly perpetrated were carried out in accordance with the will of the Vatican.
“My clients were responding to, uh, intrinsic moral evil,” stated a defense attorney at the International Criminal Court. “They felt that ridding Rwanda and the Balkans of hundreds of thousands of would-be queers might please the pope.”
On the domestic front, gangs of Americans, outfitted in pope-like miters and cassocks, have recently been seen late at night, biting off large chunks of people coming out of gay bars, and chomping at women going into reproduction clinics. Some bureaucrats have even taken to appearing at their jobs in full pope regalia, claiming that their attire helps them find the courage to deny gays the rights to adoption, civil unions, and teaching jobs.
“Fighting intrinsic moral evil is the best way I know to make God love me,” said Mabel Pritchens, clerk at New York City’s Marriage License Bureau. “We at the Bureau are so grateful. If God hadn’t given us gays to discriminate against, we’d have to worry about the economy or why we’re in Iraq.”
Clyde Lichtenloafer, a confirmed bachelor, sighed and announced that he would return soon to Mount Sinai for operations on his rotator cuff, and treatment of a wound that will not heal.