An Atheist Answers the Pope

From a Reuters article “Pope reaffirms ban on women priests, assails disobedience”:

“Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church?,” he asked rhetorically in the sermon of a solemn Mass in St Peter’s Basilica on the day Catholic priests around the world renew their vows.

Disclaimer: I am an atheist, not a lapsed Catholic having never been Catholic, and should, therefore, maybe, not be so interested in this subject. But I can’t help it. This anachronism of an institution to me is like a train wreck in super-slow motion.

Pope, your holiness, forgive me for butting in, but the answer to your question, which something tells me you don’t know, is yes.

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Letting Go of God

It's Jesus!

If you know her only as “It’s Pat” from Saturday Night Live, then you probably won’t know that Julia Sweeney is also a talented writer and performer of monologues à la Spaulding Gray. Unlike Gray, Sweeney moves around on the stage a lot, but like Gray, her subject is her journey into self-knowledge. Her first show, God Said, Ha! (1998), concerned disease, death and survival: the story centered on her brother Michael’s lymphoma and how it brought her closer to her parents–literally closer; they moved in with her to help her care for her brother.  It’s a surprisingly unsentimental, unselfpitying show, very funny throughout, and, therefore, a much richer experience than the usual hystrionic tales of family dysfunction and disease.

I picked up the Quentin Tarantino-produced film of Sweeney’s show from the library a few weeks ago thinking it would be about Sweeney’s loss of faith. I’m at the age when titles of movies and plays don’t stick in the head the way they used to and I was thinking of her next piece, with the similarly divine title Letting Go of God (2006). But I’m glad I saw her earlier piece first, not only because it was fascinating and beautifully performed, but also because it drops a few clues about how someone with Sweeney’s deeply Catholic background could take the radical spiritual turn she takes in the second monologue, which I finally got to see last night. Continue reading