I’m a little obsessed with Pope Francis.
It’s not because I’m a Catholic. I’m a poor Catholic. I’d consider myself non-practicing really.
It’s only because when I look at Pope Francis I can’t help thinking of him (and his Jesuit order) as the Jedi, desperately trying to turn the Catholic Church from the dark side to the light side.
Okay, it’s random, but indulge me in my Star Wars analogy.
It’s almost as if the Catholic Church, which was born out of the Abrahamic “Faith”, found completeness with the prophesied arrival of Jesus ( “you were supposed to be the chosen one!” ), who manifested all the qualities of Jedi humility, servitude and universality and used the “faith” to bring humanity closer to the eternal kingdom.
But then over the years, the Catholic Church just like Anakin Skywalker became corrupted. The faith increasingly drew its force from the materially minded dark side. The Vatican, in terms of symbolism, became a death star, inciting ever more hostility from those it tried to control and dominate over.
The Jesuits are known to be a holy but politically/militarily active order. Liberation theology is about the ends justifying the means. They are frugal and wear the robes of monks, and specialise in exorcising bad spirits, spreading education, and working on the fringes of the mother church. They embrace science and technology more than any other Catholic order. If my understanding is correct, they believe god works his wonders through technology. (Might be wrong on that). Many were cast out of the Church altogether, and the order has even had to go underground at times to avoid the wrath of Rome.
The Jedi are known to be a powerful, political/military order. We’ve seen them kill if the ends justify the means. They are frugal and wear monk clothes, specialise in exorcising the dark side, in spreading education in the “force”, working on the fringes of established government — if not compete with it directly. They embrace light sabres and other forms of technology. Many had to go underground when the darkside became too powerful.
But there are many more analogies with Vatican intrigue if you think about it.
Take Anakin Skywalker. His coming was prophesied. He was conceived not by the holy spirit but the midichlorians — the nanobots through which the force works — to a “virgin” mother, in an environment not dissimilar to the biblical middle east. (Tatooine)
Anakin fell in love with Padme. Because he was a Jedi the relationship had to be secret. No one, apart from his closest followers, knew they were married. Padme had secret children, which no one knew about, continuing the blood line of Anakin, which eventually spawned the second coming “Luke”. Padme can be considered the Mary Magdalen figure.
Anakin was betrayed (or felt like he was betrayed) by Obi Wan Kenobi and the Jedi. This was a key motivating force in turning him to the dark side. He wanted more power. He had his altercation with the Sith lord (satan) in the Jedi council rooms, but rather than resisting like Jesus he bowed down to Darth Sidious and pledged servitude. Jesus instead faced the temptation of the devil in the wilderness. He also faced the devil in the garden of Gethsemane (if you believe Mel Gibson).
Anakin’s final confrontation is not with the Romans but with Obi wan. During this confrontation he’s burned to a near crisp. Everything Anakin-like is destroyed. He comes to the edge of death not to save humanity but Padme, who ironically is dying because of him. He is reborn as Darth Vader, to serve on the (right hand?) side of darth sidious, the emperor Lord of the galaxy. He is then charged with bringing peace to the galaxy by coercion. (Not sure whether it is relevant, but both Luke and Anakin lose their rights hands.)
Some relevant quotes.
First from the temptation of Christ:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Meanwhile, this quote from Padme shifts our understanding of what the Catholic Church may have unwittingly become:
What if the democracy we thought we were serving no longer exists, and the Republic has become the very evil we have been fighting to destroy?
A Catholic Church acting in the name of god, but dealing notoriously only in absolutes:
Obi-Wan: Only a Sith Lord deals in absolutes. I will do what I must.
Anakin Skywalker: You will try.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that Star Wars is like an allegory of the corruption of the Catholic Church and its path away from “the true light” of Jesus.
The church has always confused me because of its many contradictions, especially when it comes to Jesus. Contradictions which for the first time are being unravelled because Pope Francis is looking beyond established protocol to the actual examples set by Jesus. Pope Francis doesn’t seem to deal in absolutes. That makes him appealing to confused non-practicing Catholics (who were possibly embarrassed to admit they were Catholics), but also to agnostics, and the non-believing.
His latest exhortation reveals all this plainly.
People are calling him a marxist, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s more that the old Roman Catholic church literally put god himself on the same level as an all powerful capitalist. A capitalist who had achieved ownership and power of all matter in the universe, and who instead of drawing monetary rents demanded humanity to pay him rents by means of continuos worship and adulation. The church in this way became a champion of capitalism, itself money and power motivated in an inwardly looking way.
Pope Francis is turning all this on its head. He still has faith in the goodness of god (i.e. that the church hasn’t been fully corrupted and can be saved). The aim now, however, is to create a heaven on earth with the help of god.
Supreme Chancellor: Remember back to your early teachings. “All who gain power are afraid to lose it.” Even the Jedi.
Anakin Skywalker: The Jedi use their power for good.
Supreme Chancellor: Good is a point of view, Anakin. The Sith and the Jedi are similar in almost every way, including their quest for greater power.
Anakin Skywalker: The Sith rely on their passion for their strength. They think inward, only about themselves.
Supreme Chancellor: And the Jedi don’t? Anakin
Skywalker: The Jedi are selfless… they only care about others.
That said the pope has warned against gnostic interpretation, and the above is pretty much a gnostic interpretation. Though please, this is just a thought exercise. I enjoy finding exotic interpretations to movies.
The larger point is that there is a fine line between good and evil. We must be ever mindful that power corrupts absolutely and that “faith” itself can be twisted and used both for good and evil, for us, or against us.
The church has great potential for good. Unfortunately over the last few decades it has fallen to the dark side. To keep the Star Wars analogy going… Pope Francis hopefully sees himself as a representative of the Lord on earth, but one that unlike his predecessors doesn’t want to simply comply with the corrupted protocols of that institution. He wants to bring the institution back to the light. He wants to abolish the hierarchy and make the church universal and open to all again.
Quoting from the recent exhortation now:
Or as Saint Irenaeus writes: “By his coming, Christ brought with him all newness”. With this freshness he is always able to renew our lives and our communities, and even if the Christian message has known periods of darkness and ecclesial weakness, it will never grow old. Jesus can also break through the dull categories with which we would enclose him and he constantly amazes us by his divine creativity. Whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world. Every form of authentic evangelization is always “new”.
Pope Francis: A new hope.