I've written before on this blog about how the nearest thing I have to an actual religion is a kind of half-arsed relationship with the deities of the santeria pantheon, and I realise my sad devotion to this ancient religion does me no credit (though who got a phone call saying he had a new job after burning a candle in front of a statue of Eleggua? That'd be moi), but, like a not inconsiderable number of people oop North, I was raised Catholic. Went to church every sunday, did the John Paul II 'go-for-the-burn' aerobic workout of stand-up, sit-down, kneel-down, stand-up, watched a bloke in a fabulous frock prance about with a goblet of wine on stage, did the weird collective foot-worship thing on Good Friday (and seriously, what is that about? Jesus is humble. He doesn't want you all coming up and slobbering on his feet like he's some kind of sadistic toe queen. Even Mary Magdalen didn't go that far.), the whole shebang.
And the odd thing is, although I disagree with the Church a lot on doctrine, and especially, in those days, on the specific doctrine that said I had to get up early on a Sunday morning to freeze my arse off on a cold pew listening to St Paul's umpteenth letter to the Galaxians, I love the theatre of the church. I love the candles and the incense and the ridiculously camp clothes and the cathedrals and the carvings and the misericords (god damn do I love misericords, there's one in, I think, Salisbury Cathedral that's like a weird sci-fi wasp). It's so OTT, it's so gothic, it's so...well, let's be honest, so unnatural. I mean, even in the context of religious practice, which is not known for being massively logical, Catholicism (and High Church Anglicanism, its closeted younger sister) really is the high water-mark for religious silly behaviour. Whenenever I hear someone go on about Scientology, and how apparently Tom Cruise thinks we were actually all made by Q out of StarTrek or whatever, I just think: that's nothing, mate. I used to belong to a religion that believes a man can turn a piece of bread into a piece of human flesh because he has a magic cock. Beat that!
It makes perfect sense to me that someone like Oscar Wilde would have been drawn to Catholicism in the last days of his life, and not just because by that point, after the trial, imprisonment and scandal, he was a broken man, dying and looking for any desperate way to be rehabilitated. Wilde's whole aesthetic was based on artifice and paradox, on the rejection of any notion of a 'natural' order in favour of a carefully cultivated mystique. The Catholic church has that in spades. Gold spades, in fact, with ruby-encrusted handles, each containing a fragment of the True Cross and the cock-bone of Saint Nicodemus the Priapic.
Which is why I find it absolutely hilarious when people like the Holy See's current incumbent, Papa Benny, start going on about 'natural law', as he has been lately. And which 'natural law' is it he's keen to defend? Is it the 'natural law' of science which says you can't turn bread into flesh and wine into blood no matter how many times you wave your hands about and shout the Latin equivalent of 'izzy-wizzy-let's-get-busy'? Is it the 'natural law' of politics which rubs its chin pointedly and goes 'come off it, mate' when told that God hirself just happened to choose exactly the Papal candidate the last Pope was keen should succeed? Is it the 'natural law' of character, which says no man is infallible, no matter how fantastic his robe looks in a certain light? Or maybe it's the natural law of morality, which might say, hmm, I dunno, that if you fucking colluded in the systematic cover-up of ongoing child abuse, you ought to hang your head in shame and not open your liar's mouth to join in when decent people start discussing ethical issues?
Of course not, silly! What the erstwhile Hitler Youth member is actually speaking out to defend as 'natural law' is the church's right to discriminate against people on the grounds that they're gay or trans. That's right - Papa Ratso heads up an organisation which protected paedophiles for years, but he's verdammt if he's going to have any gays or trans people in his church. Nein!
Here are three excellent pieces on the frock-wearing fundamentalist's weird obsession with keeping LGBT people from taking part in the fun, from Cheryl Morgan, Anton Vowl and Helen at Bird of Paradox. I'd also recommend reading the previous post at BoP, because it shows that Il Papa isn't just running his mouth off about this, but the Vatican are still up to their old tricks of trying to tell secular nations what to do on the basis of their bizarro dogma.
Fortunately, as Cheryl points out, there are a lot of religious folk who aren't as bigoted as Benny the Bastard, thank god. But if you do find yourself on the receiving end of any intolerance from members of the priesthood in the coming week, do what I do: give them a good long look, raise an eyebrow, and say 'I'm not natural? You worship a zombie, wear an outfit that Liberace would reject as 'a bit much, to be honest', hang around exclusively with a bunch of other guys and call an old ex-Nazi 'daddy', and I'm the one who's not natural? I'm not really 100% sure you can claim the moral high ground on this one, love.'