The Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory the Vatican's “Chief Astronomer” (-but wait, that’s not the funny part) declared that belief in alien life does not contradict a faith in God in an interview just over a week ago on Tuesday May 13, 2008 in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.
Are you laughing yet?
The Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, was quoted as saying “the vastness of the universe means it is possible there could be other forms of life outside Earth, even intelligent ones.”
Where to begin on this? We here at Random Thoughts have been on a mostly political jag lately, what with the Democratic nomination process still ongoing, and the latest revelations about the Bush Administration’s crimes against the people and our system of government. I’m feeling profoundly exhausted, and even a little helpless as we are entering what I fear will be a transition into a “W Bush” third term with John McCain at the helm. But sometimes, the news of a particular hypocrisy or insanity (read this excellent piece on what I like to call Pat Buchanan’s “Nigga, you better thank whitey address” right here) is so stunning in its ridiculousness, that we feel moved to write about it. Which brings me to what I see as the Vatican’s latest reform...
According to this interview with this high ranking Jesuit, belief in aliens is okay, but as far as we know belief in the inalienable rights of Gays and Lesbians to be… well Gays and Lesbians, is still blasphemy. How do you leap frog to recognizing the possibility of the existence of alien life, while maintaining the prehistoric insistence that earthbound Gays and Lesbians are going to Hell?
I’m sure there will be the usual “irrationalizations” made by the American Catholic establishment. Homosexuality, although not a big enough deal breaker to have been included in the Ten Commandments, is a sin; whereas recognizing Alien life, is simply a further elaboration of pro-life principles it would seem. I mean everybody loves E.T. right? But Harvey Fierstein, while cuddly, isn’t really looking for our approval. Hats off to him.
I, like many of you, appreciate the contributions of the Catholic Church and its many great writers and thinkers across centuries. Thomas Aquinas is one of many, many shining examples whose influence is felt across cultures. I also have found, only until adult life sadly, a profound solace at times of personal loss, in the ceremony of funeral as a last good bye to family and friends who have passed on. The Catholic Sacraments are pretty hard to beat as far as marking and celebrating life’s various stages. But looking at the Roman Catholic Church’s legacy across history, those comforts and goodwill are overshadowed by: the decades-long attempts at cover-ups of institutionalized pederasty in the United States; its conspicuous silence during the mid century holocaust in Europe; its tacit and overt endorsement of slavery in the “new world”; its support of the Spanish Inquisition; its persecution of scientists; its funding of the crusades, and the Vatican’s love of money and political influence over its own philosophical principals.
There are those of us in America who would rather forget all of these things, and instead focus on the role that the Vatican and its Roman Catholic Church played in managing fragile human societies in disastrously dangerous time periods in Europe’s history by: attempting to curb sexually transmitted diseases by promoting monogamy, discouraging suicide, and generally enforcing common law with the fear of a pain-filled afterlife. All noble things considering that humankind as a species was up against famine, the black plague, syphilis, cholera and general internecine stupidity. We need to reexamine why it is that certain rules for living were generated by our churches, temples and mosques throughout history and what, if any, relevance they have for our world now.
Once upon a time, in some town in central Europe, let’s say in the 1200s, where the infant mortality rate may have been as high as I in 2, a Gay or Lesbian person may have looked like a serious threat to the population’s future. You simply could not afford to not have people forming families and not fucking like mad to produce children or the town could conceivably die in a generation’s time (back then about 25 years or less). So the Church stepped in to scare people into contributing to the population, and I mean really scaring people, like burning some poor motherfucker at the stake, and if some sensible person asked why his pal was burned at the stake, set him up next. The etymology of the word “faggot” can be traced to these periods in history.
Cigarettes are still called “fags” today in the U.K., as are boys of all ages, before they get beat to death in the U.S.
Why do some of these rules stick then? Jews and Muslims are still instructed to avoid pork. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say God would never, ever, ever outlaw the consumption of such a delicious animal, it gives us the ham sandwich, the bacon sandwich and the pork sandwich, oh, and don’t forget the ham sandwich. Then again, the bible says God wouldn’t let Adam eat an apple or he’d kick him and his girlfriend off his land. This then must be a case of temples and mosques stepping in to stop the eating of pork chops probably due to some disease long ago eradicated by refrigeration or medicine. So why can’t my Muslim and Jewish friends come over for pork chops? (Well one of them would; I won’t out him) The answer is a simple confusion between the notion of tradition or values and simple force of habit. The Exclusion, abusing and killing of Homosexuals is contextualized as a tradition and part of a set of values by many religions.
It’s in fact, just an old habit that got put in print.
Who's to blame? As Alan Moore ’s fictional terrorist V said long ago in some always near, but never actual future: “certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.”
And so as the cause is you and me, the answer is also you and me.
The Catholic Church now recognizes the right of its constituents to believe in alien life, and presumably the right of those alien life forms to exist. This is reform, but it is comical reform, as when the Church attempted to explain the paradox of how Moses, an un-baptized prophet and a Jew, would avoid the fires of hell.
We have too many Gays and Lesbians who are our friends, mentors, teachers, co workers and yes… family to have them excluded from any facet of our lives… and yet we do. We let so much shit slide in our lives. The question before us then is this: Can this be the century where there are no doors closed, to anyone? I’m not talking about frowning convincingly when someone tells an off color joke (read: “political correctness”), or going to see a movie about gay cowboys and being moved to tears (read: “being full of shit”). I’m talking about standing with someone when they are being treated as less than human. I live in New York City, the same New York City that is considered so liberal and tolerant as to be worlds away from the rest of the country and I still see this shit happen everyday. I’ve even done it myself.
It’s up to you and me and everyone we know. The Church and other religious and political institutions can draw whatever imaginary lines they want between us. No one can stop us from standing together and going about our lives, -if that’s the kind of world we want…
…or we can just wait for our alien neighbors to come down and ask why we have all these silly people in big crazy hats giving us orders from old, outdated textbooks.