Saturday, December 26, 2009

Woman Tackles Pope; Seminarian Clutches Pearls

This video was taken at the 10 PM Christmas Eve Mass at the Vatican.


     It's shocking footage, for sure.  That anyone would physically attack someone while they are praying or performing a religious ceremony disgusts me.  I always had a fear of this sort of thing while I was a priest.  When up on the altar, one is completely exposed, and people have taken advantage of this vulnerability in history.  Liberation Theologian and Archbishop Oscar Romero, who sided with the poor of El Salvador against the rich and, for a long while, anti-liberation-theology-Vatican backed Salvadoran government, was shot dead while celebrating Mass.  When I was in El Salvador in 2001, I put my fingers in the bullet hole in the wall in the back of the sanctuary

     But in history there are also examples of religious people using the "sanctuary" of churches as a way to kill and commit genocide.  At the Rock of Cashel in Ireland, Protestants burned Irish Catholics.  In the Catholic churches of Rwanda, Tutsis took refuge only to have holy priests and nuns point the way for the military to massacre the vulnerable believers who thought they were safe in the Catholic churches.  In the Revolutionary war, there are reports that the British did the same to Americans in their churches, as the (not-so-good) film The Patriot portrayed so tragically.

     So, who was this Woman in Red that pulled Pope Ben to the floor during the Vatican Christmas Eve mass? She was not an angry atheist, not a militant lesbian protesting the church's continual ban on women's ordinations, not a radical Muslim terrorist, not a victim of sexual abuse by a priest (that we know of) seeking revenge, and not a Jew angry at Pope Ben's anti-Jewish blunders.

     The Associated Press reports that the woman was an unarmed Swiss-Italian national with psychiatric problems, Susanna Maiolo, 25, who attempted to do the same thing to the Pope at last year's Christmas Eve mass.  She's since been checked into a clinic for treatment.  The Pope is fine and he complete the Mass, but an elderly Cardinal Etchegaray was knocked to the ground in the commotion, broke his hip, and is awaiting surgery.

     While the gasps and screams of the faithful are understandable, a few of the clerics responses were a bit revealing.  Start the video below at about 1:00 to see the contrast between the old bishop's and the young seminarian's responses.


     The old bishop reacts like it's no big deal: "What to do?"


     The young straight seminarian (because the Vatican doesn't accept gays into the seminaries anymore) reacts instinctively by grasping his pearls.

First the gasp...


and then the grasp...


     But the Woman in Red (perhaps an undercover cardinal) wasn't the only believer taking the occasion of the high holy day to draw attention to herself.  Two of the bishops, who were just exposed in Ireland's Murphy Report as despicable participants in the cover-up and enabling of priests' sexual abuse of children, took Christmas as their occasion to resign and had priests throughout the Archdiocese of Dublin read their letters of resignation during Christmas masses.  While I'm happy they finally resigned and offered an apology, was Christmas really the best time to do this?  I thought Christ was the "reason for the season."

     There's nothing like religious men and women taking their own precious holy day and making it about themselves.

2nd Hate of Christmas: Mall Rage

The 2nd Hate of Christmas according to Little Loves' Mama:

     It is two weeks before Christmas and I am channeling the Grinch.  I am at the mall with my two lovely children, Miss No-Nap and Captain Whiny Pants.  I would not willingly drag my progeny to the mall during holiday madness, but I am scheduled to perform in the mall ice rink’s Christmas show and the only way anyone would watch my children was to meet me at the mall.  You see, my steadfast husband is gone for the fourth weekend in a row as he works on a traveling Christmas show, starring Iowa’s own Barry Manilow wanna-be.  And here I am, carrying my daughter and dragging my son through the wandering mall traffic.  My daughter would have been in a stroller, but we’ve just moved and I couldn’t find it anywhere.  A Christmas special, we ain’t.

     So I am carrying her and the sweat is pooling in my bra and my back under the diaper bag back-pack.  My son is charged and rearing to go – for once he is not protesting.  Perhaps he is outrunning the mall Santa, who was lurking behind an indoor reindeer fence with his big black boots and jingling elf helpers as he posed for pictures with wailing children clawing to escape his lap.  Not someone you’d really want to invite into your home when you’re tucked in fast asleep…

     What do I hate about this scenario?  The slow, browsing pace of the mall traffic.  The people who stop in the middle of the flow to search their purses for coupons or to text their companions that they “couldn’t find the sweater in medium, do you think that large would be too big?”  The retired people who think shopping on the weekend is more fun than shopping when the young’uns are at work.  Women wearing faded Christmas sweaters, as a reminder in case you forgot what season it is.  The people who have properly contained their children in strollers, yet who are still dawdling next to the Magic Eye Posters because, OMG, they’re freaky!  And so early nineties, please have the taste to ogle something current and cutting edge.  Seriously.  Just not Snuggies.  I freakin’ hate Snuggies.

     I can get from one end of the mall to the other in five minutes flat, even as I galumph along in my snow boots, whilst favoring a broken toe.  My son and I have worked out a code and he knows that if I say, “Switch!” it means that I am letting go of his hand to jockey my daughter to my other hip.  He wordlessly slips behind me and takes my other hand.  We can perform this maneuver as easily as a race car changing lanes, it is effortless and we don’t need to slow our pace.

     We dart and dash between clumps of people.  Sometimes I say, “Excuse Me!”  But I mostly don’t.  We’re on a mission, people!  Who has time to lallygag?  At one point, I say quite loudly, “Skinny -up!  We’re going to slide right next to the wall!”  Did I care that the couple we eclipsed glared at me?  Nope!  We didn’t bump them.  I think, though, that they didn’t appreciate the insinuation that they were moving too slowly, puttering around like geriatrics at a craft fair.  But they were!

     I don’t have road rage.  The crowded mall parking lot didn’t faze me in the least.  In fact, the lot was extra packed due to the sooty mounds of snow piled at the ends of parking lanes.  I don’t lose my cool in parking lots or when driving – there’s too much at stake when it comes to the size and speed of vehicles.

     But I’ll admit to mall rage.  For the most part, it is safer than road rage.  Barreling at top speed I weigh less than a car, at least I hope I do.  I’m never rude to the people working there, never short with security or impatient in the checkout line.  But I get incensed by the slow walkers.  Even when hugely pregnant and carrying a toddler I can outpace most people.  So be wary – Grandma WILL get run over by this mama on a mission.

     (This post was written by Little Loves' Mama.  Read more of her work over at Soup.) 

     Postscript: December 26th is the second busiest shopping day of the year, so have fun pushing through the malls today.