What the Butler Saw
THE laws of God, the laws of man,
He may keep that will and can;
Not I: let God and man decree
Laws for themselves and not for me;
And if my ways are not as theirs
Let them mind their own affairs.
Their deeds I judge and much condemn,
Yet when did I make laws for them?
So wrote A E Housman and he makes a fair point, particularly in relation to the ‘laws of God’. While ‘the laws of man’, at least in a country with an element of democracy, can be debated and repealed ‘The laws of God’ are absolute, imposed directly from heaven. And when they’re broken the authority for passing sentence and punishment is entrusted to whichever Holy Joe is looking after God’s interests in that corner of the world.
Paolo Gabriele, the Pope’s butler, who says he was “inspired by the Holy Spirit to root out evil and corruption” in the Vatican by leaking a stash of embarrassing facts to a journalist, was given an 18-month prison sentence for his trouble. He really should have ignored the Holy Spirit’s inspiration here. The Vatican has its own police force, the Vatican Gendarmerie, its own court and its own judges to keep the servants in order and prevent embarrassing secrets being leaked. What the butler actually saw and how much is still under wraps we’ll probably never know. The judges refused to admit some of the key evidence in the trial.
But it’s not only Paolo Gabriele who’s been spilling the beans about dodgy doings in the Vatican. A prominent catholic theologian, Hans Kung, has been calling for a ‘revolution from below’ to unseat the Pope and the Catholic hierarchy which he says is corrupt and lacking credibility.
He has described the church as an “authoritarian system” with parallels to Germany’s Nazi dictatorship. “He has developed a peculiar pomposity” he says of the Pope. “He’s frequently to be seen wrapped in golden splendour and swank”. “He wears the crown of a nineteenth-century pope and has even had the garments of the Medici pope Leo X remade for him”. “The Vatican is no different from the Kremlin,” he said. “Just as Putin as a secret service agent became the head of Russia, so Ratzinger, as head of the Catholic Church’s secret services, became head of the Vatican”.
Kung is no stranger to controversy in the wacky world of Catholicism. In 1979 he was stripped of the authority to teach Catholic theology by Pope John Paul II for questioning the concept of papal infallibility (Guardian, 5 October).
Things can certainly turn ugly when these religious drama queens fall out. The Pope’s butler though can be thankful that it was not the Taliban’s version of God’s laws in Pakistan that he broke.
On 9 October Malala Yousafzai, a 14 year-old schoolgirl in the town of Mingora in Pakistan where since 2009 the Tehrik-i-Taliban regime has been trying to ban girls from attending school, was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt. Her crime was writing a blog promoting her views on education for girls and detailing her life under the Taliban. A Taliban spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, confirmed that she had been the target and called her crusade for education rights an “obscenity”.