As a Sky News newscaster so aptly remarked “this is like a scene straight from The Da Vinci Code“.
The trial of sallow-faced Paolo Gabriele, the man accused of stealing secret documents from the Pope and leaking their contents to the press, started a few days ago in the Vatican City. This is high drama indeed. Eat your heart out, Lassange! Shocking facts have already emerged, and more will no doubt emerge, in the days to come (unless the Church manages to keep a lid on things)!
In the first place, most people didn’t realise, until now, that the Pope even had a butler. Why, is he too holy to make up his own bed? In the second place, most people didn’t realise the Pope had secrets. What for, isn’t he supposed to be utterly trustworthy, totally noble and God-fearing, the very edifice of goodness? In the third place, how come the Pope, who supposedly has a direct line to aforementioned God, did not realise his butler was betraying him? He saw this bloke every day of his life, yet he couldn’t see into his soul? Why didn’t God warn him? Why didn’t an angel appear to him in his dream to tell him: “Fear not, o Benedict XVI, but thy butler is about to fuck thee over mightily!”
I know this article is not very respectful of Roman Catholicism, and I realise that if I’d poked fun at Islam there’d be several burning embassies within the following week, so let’s start with the good things. Firstly, I like the fact that the Church won’t kill me for not liking them. At least these guys have a vague (if theoretical) inkling of the principle of free speech. In the second place, I quite like the Pope’s dress sense. I’ve always admired men who wear dresses, who are not afraid to show their feminine sides. Some of my best friends are cross-dressers, just like the Pope!
But here’s where the praise ends. During the last couple of years the Roman Catholic Church has fallen from grace in a big way, not only in my opinion, but in the opinion of millions of disillusioned Catholics across the world. It actually started long before, when Nostradamus predicted the fall of the Vatican Empire centuries ago. He said it would happen round about now, if I’m interpreting his quatrains correctly (not that I’m an expert on Nostradamus, I frankly think he was overrated but that’s what the scholars say he said).
Then there was the terrible thing with the choir boys. Good heavens! Who would have dreamt there could be so many naughty priests around! Who would have thought so much evil could lurk in the candle-lit corridors and pews of those fungus-covered buildings? What ghastly seductive schemes waxed so wickedly in the ritually obsessive brains of those heavily-robed, Latin-speaking predators? And why were so many of them guilty of this deviant behaviour?
Now, alas, one man holds the key to finally toppling the entire heap of relics and dusty bones called Catholicism. A sallow-faced, morbid-looking, middle-aged man by the name of Paolo. With a face straight from the twilight zone and a crumpled dark suit that would have made any vampire proud, this eerie figure stands accused of undermining the authority of Rome, just like his namesake the equally morbid Apostle Paul stood accused before the Roman Empire in the first century.
It’s perhaps more like a scene from Agatha Christie than Dan Brown, if you ask me. I will never be able to play a game of Cluedo with my kids again without thinking of ol’ Paolo. And secretly admiring him.
The cunning it must have took, the timing, the admirable sense of vile purpose that drove this man to do this deed! The very nerve! To grope beneath the Pope’s underwear to retrieve all these ghastly secrets that had been stacked away there for years!
One thing stands out like a rotten steeple: it’s not really Paolo who’s on trial here. It’s the Catholic Church. The organisation which, for almost 2 000 years, have claimed, on the flimsiest of Biblical evidence, to be the true heirs of the socio-spiritual movement started all those years ago by that truly nice man with his seamless robe and friendly eyes who walked the streets (and lakes, if we could believe that bit) of Palestine all those years ago.
To tell you the truth, if I ever needed a second-hand car, or donkey, or whatever, I wouldn’t buy it from Pope Benedict. I’d rather ask Jesus any day. And not just because he knows lots of donkeys or even because he can do interesting tricks with loaves of bread and stuff. But just because, unlike most Popes I’ve known, everything he said way back then, and everything he did, carried such a wonderful ring of truth.
The real question here isn’t about who’s right, or who stole what, or who was born of a virgin or not, but this: is the trial of this man in his dark suit and combed-back gelled hair, this man who resembles a cross between an ageing Elvis and an undertaker, the final straw that will break the back of the 2 000-year-old Vatican Empire? Is this where Roman Catholicism as an institution will lose the last shred of credibility in the minds of the public?
One day, when my children grow up and I take them on a tour of Europe to show them all the magnificent cathedrals — I’ve always wanted to do that, because I really love stained-glass windows — and they ask me what those huge empty buildings were originally built for, I will tell them they were designed and commissioned by the practitioners of a mighty and monstrous religion, now extinct.
And, if they ask me how a monstrous and mighty religion that could build such remarkable buildings could simply disappear into thin air, I will simply shrug and say: “The butler did it.”
And then I shall tell them the beautiful and true parable of Saint Paolo Gabriele, the last and greatest martyr of the Holy Vatican Empire.