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I'm Erin Judge. I'm a comedian and a writer. I live in Los Angeles. Let's hug.

September 26, 2008

Catholic League, say what?

"Witchcraft is a sad reality in many parts of Africa, resulting in scores of deaths in Kenya over the past two decades. Bishop Muthee's blessing, then, was simply a reflection of his cultural understanding of evil."

That logical doozy is excerpted from a statement from Bill Donohue, the President of the Catholic League.

Let's unpack that one, shall we?

The phrase "witchcraft is a sad reality" is, um, fascinating. What, exactly, is he saying is really real, is really happening? Does witchcraft or the attempted practice thereof cause humans to murder other humans? Or do certain witchy Kenyans actually conjure evil magic from Satan or something in order to kill people?

Bill, my friend, I believe you to be deliberately obfuscating here. And that purposeful vagueness is just another pirouette in the careful ballet that global Catholicism must try to dance.

I once saw a movie based on a Gabriel García Márquez story that I've never read. In it, a Latin American man must exhume his deceased young daughter's body because the above-ground cemetery where she rests is being knocked over to build a Coca-Cola-bottling-slash-banana-exporting-slash-right-wing-guerilla-training facility or something. So anyways, dude dives into his daughter's little alabaster drawer and discovers that her body has not decayed at all. Post-mortem corporeal preservation is, in Catholicism, an indicator of sainthood. So, after struggling with the Church bureaucracy in his homeland and getting nowhere, dear devoted dad does what any of us would do: he shoves his darling daughter's perfect corpse into a guitar case and heads for the Vatican.

Once there, a whole bunch of stuff happens involving an opera singer and a very macabre merry-go-round ride, but mostly this guy is cooling his heels and getting the run-around from the Church. Ultimately, while waiting around a Church office once again, our dude overhears some conversation about how they should really declare this chick a saint, since, you know, those countries, the wacky poor ones, with the regular-ass non-elite people, they NEED stuff like this. It'd be good P.R. for the Church to throw another saint their way, right?

Disgusted and insulted, our hero picks up his progeny-laden guitar case and storms out, and soon after he realizes he can do stuff telepathically and that in actuality he is the one imbued with miracle-working powers, not his daughter, so he just brings her back to life, and they cavort happily and have a much less macabre merry-go-round experience.

But the condescending message of the Church, with its high-level personnel base in secularizing, theology-heavy Europe and (mostly-)rational America, is what has always stuck with me about that movie. Church leaders are always trying to stay a teensy bit consistent with cosmopolitan thought evolution in the West (like newfangled science, even heliocentrism!) while still shoring up their power base in the developing world, where the interference of spirits and demons is sometimes seen as a very normal part of everyday life.

Bill Donahue's statement above neither confirms nor denies that witches cast spells that contain black magic that make people die. He just says that "witchcraft" is "a sad reality" which ultimately results in deaths. Everybody wins! Except the victims of witches, of course.

Fortunately, Sarah Palin will not be another witchcraft statistic, for she has protection. The only thing she's still vulnerable to is her own remarkable ignorance and utter lack of qualifications.

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