If you’ve ever been in, or even had a close friend who was in, an abusive relationship, you recognize the pattern.
The abuser has been acting like a complete shit for quite some time. Eventually, he realizes that he needs some good PR to balance it all out. So suddenly he does a few nice things — actually takes out the trash without a scene, throws the ball back and forth with the kids, or doesn’t hit you for a day or so. Or maybe he doesn’t really do anything different, but he starts to talk sweet. Yeah, maybe he will go with you to counseling; he’ll think about it. “Hey, Babe, you look decent today.” Or maybe it’s just that he speaks at all, instead of screaming or grunting. If any of this can happen in public, so much the better, as far as he’s concerned.
He doesn’t really relax any of his insane controls nor does he change any of his underlying behaviors. But the victim is so desperate for things to improve that she’ll grasp at almost anything as a sign of change.
Well, you can call me an ungrateful, cynical bitch (and, trust me, I’ve been called a lot worse, while dodging slaps and avoiding thrown crockery), but that’s what I see going on with Pagans and progressives who are falling all over themselves because the new Catholic pope has realized that the church — watching the number of “Nones” and Pagans increase, while the number of priests and nuns continues to shrink — could use some better PR.
None — zero, not one — of the underlying behaviors have changed. Women still are second-class humans who cannot be priests, cannot lead, should stay home and raise children. He has not discontinued Ratzi’s “investigation” of American nuns. Birth control is still verboten and abortion is still a sin. His American minions are still doing everything they can (with tax-free dollars) to keep the government from paying for or requiring insurance companies to cover birth control, abortion, or maternity care. They still sexually abuse children and they still use church money to cover it up. Homosexual acts are still sins and the church still opposes civil same-sex marriages. The Catholic church still hordes massive wealth (earned, inter alia, from South American slave mines, the Magdalene Laundries, and African “missionary” churches), and, via its policies concerning women and birth control, does much to keep large swaths of the population in miserable poverty. Its insane policies also discourage the use of condoms, thereby helping to spread HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases. NONE of that has changed.
But he talks pretty — well prettier than the previous abuser. He washes some feet at a very public ceremony. He complains about capitalism, while the church continues to profit off of, well, capitalism. He suggests that maybe beating up on gay people isn’t the entire purpose of the church. He makes vague noises about some “other” role for women, although he’s careful to make clear that they still belong at home, raising dozens of babies.
And like the battered victims that they have, for many years, been, Pagans and progressives perk up and grab at the PR crumbs that Francis strews. At least he’s not still hitting us! At least he took out the trash! At least he called me “Babe” again! It’s a sign! If we just show how grateful we are and how willing to we are to meet him at least halfway, why, next thing you know, he’ll be bringing home his whole paycheck and never smacking us, ever!
And, of course, it simply helps his PR effort that conservatives are now calling him socialist, too liberal, misguided, etc. It’s no different from when the abuser comes home on a Friday night and announces, as if it ought to earn him a free pass on his next several punches, that his buddies at the bar laughed at him for coming home early to you, Baby. Now get me a beer. Conservatives long ago mastered, in a way that Pagans and progressives have not, how to work the Overton Window. So they make sure to call Obama, whose policies are to the right of Eisenhower and Nixon, a “socialist.” So Ann Coulter is accepted as a serious commentator, and the new pope is some kind of hippy Liberation theologist.
I’ve said this of Obama and I’ll say it of the new pope: We know he can speechify. Get back to me when he can actify.
Until then, I’d appreciate it if more of us had the dignity not to slobber.
Picture found here.