One of the more loony episodes (and there are many) in the annals of the Catholic Church is this report from The Freethinker, “Catholics pin hopes on dead Pope’s blood to stem gang crime in Mexico.” Yes, that’s right: a vial of the late Pope John Paul II’s blood is, with Vatican permission, going on a tour of Mexico in an attempt to stem unrest in that country:
An episcopal conference in Mexico has requested that the relic be sent over and, according to Vatican Radio, the “relic”will arrive in the country on August 17 before being taken to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
A week later the vial of blood from the “blessed” Pope John Paul, a title he acquired posthumously after his successor Benedict XVI beatified him in May, will be taken on a pilgrimage to other Catholic dioceses around the country.
The relic will be accompanied by a statue of the late Polish pope, born Karol Wojtyla, with the intended message one of reconciliation.
Killings in parts of Mexico have shot up in recent years amid a military crackdown on organized crime and drug cartels which has sent soldiers onto the streets.
Mexican bishops, in a statement broadcast on Vatican Radio, said:
The reminder of John Paul II and the love he had for our country should push us to reinforce the faith of the Mexican people, at a time when our nation is undergoing profound social change.
Here is the grisly relic that will make Mexicans put down their guns:
Equally sickening is this statement: “Several vials of blood were taken from Pope John Paul II during the last days of his life in 2005.” Amazing to think that they leached the old dude’s body for relics while he was still alive, though maybe that was just for medical use.
Grania Spingies of Atheist Ireland, who reported this bizarre Sanginary Tour to me, had this to say about it (she’s an ex-Catholic):
Oh man, how embarrassing.
On the whole I don’t bother to draw people’s attention to the stuff that Freethinker publishes every week, because it’s a never-ending stream of crazy. It gets a bit ho-hum after a while. But whenever Catholics try to claim that their religion is sophisticated and liberal and trying to move with the times, I find it useful to point to examples like this that prove that Holy Mother Church is still trying to stupefy the peasants with carnie tricks.
The classic response from Catholics to this is: “Well, we don’t have to believe in these bits”.
The response to that, is: “So why does the Vatican endorse this stuff then?”
The question comes down to this. Either these relics are dead flesh with supernatural powers or they are not. By endorsing and promoting such things to whomever is superstitious enough to be impressed by them, while at the same time holding them as optional parts of the faith to the more educated and “sophisticated” believers, the Vatican betrays a level of cynicism that one should not expect from an institution that holds itself up as a high example of morality.