I notice that Pope Benedict has now laid out the welcome mat for conservative Anglicans, inviting them to flee the corrosive influence that hippies, homosexuals and women have been having on the C of E. He’s invited them to return to the loving embrace of the Vatican after centuries of separation, heads held high, as "Catholic Anglicans". Or Canglicans or something. After getting over the shock, I’m amazed to read that some of you traitors can’t even decide whether or not to bask in the sunshine of His Holiness’s benevolence. So on behalf of the Catholics that spawned me, I’m going to do my bit to talk you forlorn little turncoats around. Here goes.
Unlike Anglicans, Catholics are really quite nice. They’re a diverse and convivial bunch too. The Irish ones drink whisky, the French drink wine, Latinos drink liquor, and Australians drink anything. Filipinos don’t drink much at all, but they’re new to the game and are sure to need a drink soon. Why all the booze, you ask? Well, heathens, let me explain.
As a quick tour of Catholic missionary art will show you, it all goes back to Jesus on the cross. Whilst being crucified, Jesus poured a fruity little claret from the wound in his side straight into the glasses of the hecklers below. Therefore all good Catholics should drink too, to be closer to God. Simple! Now, some of the hecklers were Roman soldiers, and the rest were Jews. The Romans tortured Jesus with thorns, lances and — ouch — vinegar, but the Jews called him rude names. For that reason, to a classically minded Catholic, the Romans are ok, but Jews are not so ok. Mel Gibson is quite a traditionalist in this sense.
Which brings me to how you will now be expected to regard Jews. Personally, I think the Catholic suspicion of Jews is a jealousy thing. Jewish music and literature is superior to Catholic music and literature (have you read Jonathan Livingston Seagull? No? Don’t). And Jews are pretty much comfortable with the human desire for material achievement. Catholics prefer to covet wealth while condemning others for accumulating it, and then feeling guilty about being born. It’s confusing, I admit. Luckily Catholics can look to the Vatican for guidance, from whence the answer to the money dilemma shines forth: rich Catholics are allowed to be rich, because being poor is holy — so who wouldn’t prefer to be poor — but unfortunately some of us have to be rich to make sure the rest of us are staying holy, that is to say, poor.
But back to drinking. As I said, if Catholic missionary art is to be believed, Jesus bled cab sav all over the assembly. But honestly, I wouldn’t place much stock in Catholic missionary art, because it’s more about scaring the shit out of heathens than it is about conveying the finer points of Biblical fact. Horses for courses, as they say! Hence if you want a more reliable answer to your scriptural questions, it’s always a good idea to consult the Bible directly. This is particularly so in the context of Trivial Pursuit. And lo!, the Bible itself suggests a different reason for all the booze: Catholics drink not because Jesus turned himself into a human carafe, but because the man drank like a mule. If you read the New Testament closely, you’ll discover that the Son of God was a moderately successful stand-up, following wry monologues with a trip down the pub.
But before I scare you English bastards away, I should point out that Bible study is not mandatory in the new family of God you’re being invited to join. The average Catholic has only a slim-to-middling understanding of the Bible, and that’s plenty. These days the Good Book is left to priests and fundamentalists. (Note: every other Christian denomination is fundamentalist except us. The only exception is you Anglicans, but you’re all too round-vowelled to be trusted.) So there’s no shame in being unclear about who smote whom, or why the Trinity has to be a Trinity for the whole palaver to make any sense. So don’t worry too much about the Bible. Actually, forget I even mentioned it. You just have to turn up to Sunday Mass and you’re pious as Pilate! Or is it Paul? Whatever! No one’s going to bust your rosary over such details.
Yes, the Vatican pulled off a cunning piece of strategy in adopting this laissez-faire attitude to the congregation’s grasp of doctrine. It makes the whole religion pretty low-maintenance. And as I may have mentioned, you get to drink whatever the hell you like, while contemplating images of nude people being tortured. In this sense there’s not much difference between Catholics and Goths. Both subcultures practice a love of big candles and the supernatural. The fashion sense of Goths, however, is far worse.
So, here’s my point: Catholics are ok — in fact they’re generally quite lovely. During the week they’re conscientious, principled beings and pretty, well … dull. But get a little blood of Christ into them on Sunday, and mother of God! Out come the lances and the vinegar. So, Anglican cousins, don’t dwell on your vile treachery of all those centuries ago when you left us over a bunch of cooked-up reasons; all is forgiven.
And if you’re sitting on the fence, thinking "I like the candles and incense, but Catholics seem so tediously evil", try to remember that, from an early age, Catholics are bombarded with confusing rhetoric, cheap wine and violent imagery. It’s enough to make anyone bland and perverted. After a few years of it I’ve no doubt you’ll fit right in.
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