Sunday, February 17, 2013
My Sunday Feeling
The Internet is a wonderful thing. I can't imagine practicing law without it. It has transformed literature and photography. It has made the world a flatter and smaller place. It has forever changed the way the financial markets work.
Unfortunately, it has also given loons and cranks a platform unique in human history from which to spout propaganda. Which can get around pretty quickly. A recent example popped up last week on Facebook. Naturally.
A friend of mine posted a story on her page that stated that recently retired Pope Benedict is to meet with the President of Italy on February 23rd in order to seek immunity from prosecution for the sex scandals that have plagued the Roman Catholic Church in recent years. You can read about it here: http://itccs.org/2013/02/14/pope-benedict-to-seek-immunity-and-protection-from-italian-president-giorgio-napolitano-on-february-23/
Immediately, other posters commented that they knew there had to be a "real" reason why the Pope retired other than the fact that his stated reason that he is too old and frail to continue in the discharge of his duties. They "just knew it."
Naif that I am, I took it at face value. He's 85. He watched, along with a saddened world, the dreadful deterioration of John Paul II, his predecessor in the office. It is said he that he wanted to spare the church from having to go through such an ordeal with him. He will retire to an apartment in the Vatican were he says he will be "unseen by the world."
Granted, this is the first time in 600 years that a Pope has resigned. But there is precedent and procedures for it, even if they haven't been taken off the shelf since antiquity. And I certainly had no reason to believe that his reasons for retiring were other than as stated. I had no reason because I had no reason. That, and because I am a Methodist, I had no particular theological skin in the game and didn't much care.
But to the conspiracy theorist, there is no such thing as a simple explanation. And the Catholic Church has been the fodder for much nutbar rumination over the years. Indeed, I have a friend who will not mention the Society of Jesus-the Jesuits-for fear that he might be abducted or something. I think he is serious.
And so while this story went viral on every other crackpot website in cyberspace, I noticed that it was not mentioned in any other mainstream publication that I perused. I looked at the New York Times and Chicago Tribune due to the large Catholic population in each town. Nothing. I looked at the Washington Post which covers diplomatic issues. Nada. I checked out Reuters. Zip.
So I decided to check out Rev. Kevin Annett, the Secretary of the grandly named International Tribunal into Crimes of Church which issued the story. Here's what the United Church of Canada, which defrocked Annett said about him in 2010:
"Kevin Annett resigned his position as minister of St. Andrew's United Church in Alberni, British Columbia in writing when faced with questions about his competence for ministry... For more than a decade Mr. Annett has repeatedly made disparaging public statements which verge on defamation about a number of United Church officials and members who were also involved in the process that led to his name being placed on the discontinued list."
Now, Pope Benedict may well have a meeting lined up with Italy's President next week. But I doubt that the subject of immunity will come up. Why? Because, according to a story eventually published by Reuters on February 15, as long as the Pope lives in the Vatican he will be immune from prosecution due to the Lateran Pacts between Italy and the Holy See in which Vatican City is recognized as a sovereign state.
But there is another reason why the Church wants him there instead of, say, back in his native Germany or Branson even. They don't want pilgrimages of the faithful to any other place Benedict might be in residence. Which is, interestingly enough, the same reason why Osama Bin-Laden was buried at sea. It is for irony of this magnitude that I do indeed live.
So, it appears that the reason for this meeting with the President of Italy, if there really is to be a meeting, is to discuss something other than the Pope's immunity. Which means Mr. Annett , and his "International Tribunal" which nobody will confuse with the Hague, is likely making stuff up. Or, to give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he is guided by voices.
Now, I strongly suspect that my friend posted this foolishness in order to stir the pot. She is not above engaging in this sort of suspect commerce from time to time.
Be that as it may, this is another useful example of the fact that much of what goes out on the Internet is posted by lunatics or people who have, shall we say, a negotiable relationship with the truth. And just because it is repeated often or otherwise confirms one's own beliefs or prejudices doesn't make it "true."
The resignation of Pope Benedict is a historic event. But sometimes there really are simple explanations for historic events.
Unless, of course, the Jesuits are involved.