We catholics love our mysteries, so much so that we use 20 of them to walk us through Christ's conception, birth, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven.
For the uninitiated, Good Friday last week wrapped up the five sorrowful enigmas of Christ's agony, scourging, crowning with thorns, His carrying of the cross and subsequent crucifixion and death. Since Easter Sunday and for the next 35 or so days until Pentecost, we'll now be into the resurrection and Christ's ascension into heaven.
Glorious these mysteries may be, but the riddle of my estrangement from the Mother Church was sorrowfully solved by looking at the crowd assembled in St. Peter's Square.
Simply put, I just can't stomach the apparent masochistic fetishization of human suffering that had some crowd members swooning over how "beautiful' Pope John Paul II's fruitless efforts to address the crowd were.
This is what the kids call "beautiful' these days?
But when you spend more time in your first 17 formative years in the loving embrace of the Church than you do with your own family, those messages about worldly anguish being rewarded in an otherworldly paradise have a way of sticking in your head.
The crowd, or at least the ones waxing orgasmic about the grace of it all, have succumbed to the same obsession with misery, gore, crucifix porn and God knows what else that had people flocking to see The Passion Of The Christ last year. It's astounding that this blood lust tramples Christ's message of love and forgiveness.
Most sorrowful of all, John Paul will leave behind a Church and a flock that is almost as debilitated as the Pontiff, stripped of any vestiges of reform.
While the more obvious Vatican II changes, like non-Latin masses, less ridiculous nuns' habits and some efforts to address some of the Church's more odious habits have been kept, they were mostly window dressing. The Church has become ever more disabled as those who disagreed with orthodoxy were suppressed, gays and lesbians found themselves unwelcome, and dozens of pedophile priests were routinely protected from punishment despite widespread evidence of horrible, scarring sexual abuse.
The liberation theologians have been silenced. Millions of North American Catholics have voted with their feet and lapsed like me, and those who remain are reduced to looking for beauty in the Pope's physical distress. And unlike the old scapegoats of pre-Christianity, the dying Pope won't take the Church's ills with him when he goes. Of the 118 cardinals who will choose the next first Catholic, 115 were appointed by John Paul.
It seems eons ago that I finally made some peace with my faith. I once wavered between being Catholic and not. But really my choice was between being a good or bad Catholic in the eyes of the Church. I chose lousy.
I can't find it in my heart to see blessedness in a living man's agony, or in a legacy that's left me and many others feeling unwelcome in our Father's house.