Tuesday, April 27, 2010


NOTE:  I wrote this post more than 24 hours ago (in other words, on Monday evening in Venice), but my internet problems have continued, so it's only posting late Tuesday night in Venice.

We took 389 pictures in the roughly 30 hours that we spent in Rome over the weekend.  I have yet to put one of them on my computer, so you'll have to wait a bit to see photographic evidence of our shenanigans in the City of Seven Hills.

We crammed a lot in during our short stay (that's what she said), and we had a great time.  We saw the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and a bunch of other stuff I'm forgetting right now.  

Sunday morning we got up early and headed to the Vatican because we heard it was free on Sundays from 9:00-12:30, so we thought it would be crowded.  We could not have been more wrong.  We got there and almost had the place to ourselves.  The plaza in front of St. Peter's was mostly empty, and after we took a few shots, we walked right in through the security without having to wait in line.  More people started to show up as we walked around the basilica, and there was a bit of a line as we left to head toward the museum and Sistine Chapel, so we definitely lucked out there.

Here's what I have to say about St. Peter's: as I walked in, I was understandably impressed by the scale and detail of the place.  A lot of work went into making that building, not to mention a lot of money.  But let's mention the money, shall we?  Because while I can look at a mosaic tile rendering of some biblical story and think it is pretty, or see some statue carved out of marble and be impressed by the craftsmanship, the more I look at this stuff, the more I wonder what the point is.  How many paintings/statues/mosaic pieces of Jesus can you really have before it starts to be obscene?  How much of the money used for these purposes would have been better used in aiding the poor and/or diseased?  

I was raised Catholic.  I've been baptized and confirmed.  I've obviously gone astray in the last decade or so, but there is a part of me that still really misses the tradition.  I went to mass once in Los Angeles because, more than anything else, I missed the structure.  I like knowing that I will always have to kneel and sit and rise at exactly the same points during any given mass.  I like knowing the Lord's Prayer and the Nicene Creed, and I like reciting them with large groups of people.  This is still true about me, even if I find myself because more and more agnostic as the years go by.  So part of me felt kind of nostalgic in St. Peter's, even if the service that was going on was being recited in Italian.

And then I remembered.  Those priests that just walked by?  Yeah, they hate me.  The entire system of the Catholic church is based on the premise that there are certain ways of doing things, and if you veer off the path even a little bit, you're screwed.  So don't use a condom, don't have premarital sex, and above all, don't find yourself attracted to a member of your own gender.  Christine likes to say that the individual people within the church don't hate gay people, but that doesn't actually matter to me.  If you're part of a system that truly believes that gay people are going to hell, or that it's a sin to practice safe sex, even if you don't personally believes those things, you're just as guilty as those who do believe.  You're perpetuating the system.  And you're making life miserable for a lot of people in this world.

The point is, the longer I was in St. Peter's, the more I felt this oppressive weight on me.  I could actually feel the hate that this church (both the actual building, and the entirety of the religion) has supported and/or caused over the years.  It made me ill. 

Christine and I talked about the way the church clings to tradition, even when that tradition makes no sense in the present day.  Priests were originally forbidden to marry so that they would have no heirs or spouses, and the priests' assets could be returned to the church upon their deaths.  That system is more than a little screwed up.  Then there's the idea of women not being allowed to have a role in the church, or the belief that even married couples shouldn't practice safe sex.  If the church wants to be seen as relevant in today's age, it wouldn't hurt for it to be a little more flexible.  Enough with the secrets and the lies.  Come clean about the sex scandal, and maybe do something about it, other than lying to the public and paying off the victims.  Embrace a more accepting version of Christ and his teachings.  And consider getting rid of the Nazi pope.  Just some suggestions.

Bet you didn't think a post about my trip to Rome was going to turn out like this, huh?  Me neither.

Of course, this is not to say that I didn't enjoy myself in Rome, because I certainly did.  A lot of the stuff I liked the best was pre-Christianity, though, which probably goes without saying.  So don't worry; there will be another post with pictures and plenty of happy stories about Rome, without the ranting.

But next, the story of our trip to the Sistine Chapel (in a separate post).


Orel said...

Lapsed Catholics unite! I'm always surprised when I don't burst into flames when I enter any kind of religious environment.

Bruce Paine said...

Crimes of obedience.