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Unpleasantness at the Vatican

By Diogenes (articles ) | Dec 15, 2003

"I'm not here to celebrate, like you, the birth of Christ, but to ask you why you are not in mourning for his death in this place. God has been a witness to the corruption of his leadership, of the exploitation and abuses by the clergy."

That's hip-hop artist Lauryn Hill scolding the audience at the Vatican's Christmas concert held Saturday evening in the Paul VI Auditorium. Her J'Accuse was a not-entirely-coherent mixture of old-style Protestant polemic ("I don't believe in God's representatives on earth") and contemporary invective against the corruption exemplified by the clergy abuse scandal.

It's impossible to gauge the sincerity of Hill's admonishment, but it's clear that the publicity thereby gained will sell lots of albums and cost her zero customers. Moreover, a person engaged in the pop music business at any level is in an extraordinarily poor position to criticize others for sexual exploitation of youth. Ask yourself whether the entertainment industry helps teenagers make choices in favor of purity, rationality, sobriety, and thrift.

That said, there's a sense in which Hill's Vatican hosts got what was coming to them. I'm not referring to her reprimand on sexual abuse but to the ill-focused worldliness of senior clergy who wish to nuzzle up to the rich and famous of whatever stripe, including those who exult in contempt for Christianity. The Italian daily La Repubblica says a rapper named Shaggy was not allowed to perform a number called "Hey Sexy Lady" before the assembled bishops, but clearly the stuff that makes the cut is pretty gamy.

Are Vatican photo-ops with pop stars expressly designed to show the world that Catholic clergy are no longer ingenuous and unworldly mystics locked away in monastic libraries? If so, many of us will wish to say: "Gentlemen, you've proved your point. Rembert Weakland and Robert Lynch have convinced us more thoroughly than many thousands of acoustic guitars could have. If you're missing, we won't go looking for you in the adoration chapel -- a point you made by inviting Lauryn Hill to amuse you in the first place. Now can we move on?"

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