Rorate Caeli

The Era of Tenderness

             Strepsiades: First tell me, I beseech thee, what thou art doing?
              Socrates: Walking in the air and speculating on the sun. -- Aristophanes, The Clouds

A work of fiction, by Fr. René Tiepolino (nom de plume)

The Pope inaugurated the Era of Tenderness yesterday by knocking out a traditionalist priest in St. Peter’s Square.  Anna Maria Giraffa reports: ‘We were passing the Papal balcony on a pilgrimage, when the window was torn open and the Holy Father flung out a ‘fresh air’ canister in our direction, felling don Massimo like a tree.  My mother, quick-thinking as ever despite her 97 years, gave his Reverence a quick squirt with the contents, without any visible effects. Nuns watching from a near-by convent dragged him inside and laid him to rest in the front parlour.  The infirmarian Suor Tachipirina, after administering certain secret herbal remedies, later reported his condition as ‘stable’.


Webnews: It seems that the Era of Tenderness got off to a rather shaky start.

Mgr. Psittacus (President of the Vatican Spin Committee): Not at all. The gesture was of a strictly ecological nature. The Pontiff, while cleaning out a guest cloakroom in the Papal apartments for a gaggle of Moslem terrorists, as a gesture of ‘humility and ambition’ as he later confided to a “Fran’s Fans” journalist, chanced upon the offending article in a corner. As the Holy Father indelibly declared in his recent encyclical on fly-sprays and fly-swats: these canisters damage the ozone. By disposing of the can with such violence, he was teaching us all to do likewise.

Webnews: But apparently this was not their first encounter. His Holiness had had occasion to telephone the parish priest after he had been exiled into a mountainous parish outside Sassari. It was a ‘gesture of Mercy’, to pardon him for preaching the Catholic Faith in all its rigour for two years uninterruptedly. But it seems that the priest had continued unabashed (but not unbashed). Some people may view this action as recriminatory.

Mgr. Psittacus: Out of the question. The current Vatican position towards the Catholic priesthood (at least publically) is that of inclusiveness and embracing diversity.


Webnews: Your Excellency, can you tell us something about the Era of Tenderness?

Mgr. Psittacus: The Year of Mercy was not enough for the Pope. He was impelled by uncontrollable inner drives to go on to declare an Era of Tenderness.

Webnews: You have recently been nominated Professor of Love at PIFFLE (the Pontifical Institute for the Fathoming of the Fathomable Lunacies of the Ecumenical Council).

Mgr. Psittacus: True.

Webnews: What sense of love are we talking about here?

Mgr. Psittacus: It’s not the traditional concept of love: the Cross, self-sacrifice, total gift.

Webnews: But the Cross is central to the Catholic Faith.

Mgr. Psittacus: The man of to-day has no access to it. You have to make Faith relevant. What he understands to-day is cuddling. We are seeing a shift from self-giving to closeness and tenderness.

Webnews: How is the era going to unfold?

Mgr. Psittacus: There will be three gestures in all. In the first, the Pope will appear on the balcony, cuddling a rabbit. This is extremely powerful, mediatically speaking. We saw this when he adopted the gesture to encourage rabbits to breed like rabbits several months ago.

Webnews: I remember.

Mgr.Psittacus: This time we will be encouraging our human brethren to get tender. They should stop being afraid of tenderness. This is very important! (stresses His Excellency petulantly, thumping the table the while with chubby fist).The Pope has insisted on this in his recent aeroplane Magisterium: In Nubibus. We have already acquired an initial 40,000 rabbits who will be sent to couples in central Rome for cuddling purposes.

Webnews: What about those allergic to rabbits?

Mgr. Psittacus: Goldfish will be provided.

Webnews: What about those who want to stick to the previous vision of love, like traditional seminarians?

Mgr. Psittacus: They will be tenderized by Old Mother Hubbard, as she did to the Franciscans of the Old Observance.

Webnews: How?

Mgr. Psittacus: With a meat-tenderizer.

Webnews: How is the rabbit community responding to the proposal?

Mgr. Psittacus: With enthusiasm. The rabbit selected for the Papal cuddle, Honeybun Radishnibbler III, fainted at the news from pure euphoria, subsequently receiving no less than140,000 solidarity thumps on Thumpogram.

Webnews: And the second gesture?

Mgr. Psittacus: A Dance of the Religions on Pentecost Sunday. St. Peter’s Square will host the most spectacular dance ever orchestrated. The dancing Franciscans in their sober brown habits, the cardinals in their red, dancing the flamenco with castanets, led by Cardinal Frankie ‘Coco’ Chanel, Satanist Cardinals provided with mini tridents, to take home afterwards for toasting tea-cakes or for jabbing partners who step out of line, the Brasilian bishops in multicolour, orthodox and Protestant pastors in black, dancing dervishes in white, Harry Krishna’s boys in orange, Jews in folk costumes, Buddhists in yellow: all weaving in and out of each other, circling, and slaloming, to represent the never-ending process of Dialogue. Meanwhile the massed Deep South Gospel choirs will sing: ‘We are the World’ and ‘It’s the Real Thing. Coke’. (His Excellency’s face glows red at the joy of it all - helped by a couple of glasses of don Basilio’s house red). Once they have got into full swing, the Holy Father will drive down the middle of the square on the Papal moped.

Webnews: The ecumenical one?

Mgr. Psittacus: Yes.

Webnews: Who will be in the side-car? Bishop Gaia of Lund?

Mgr. Psittacus: The side-car can’t take her. She’s broken 5 episcopal thrones already – it’s her indigestible muesli business, she eats most of it herself. No, we’re currently talking about a top Freemason like Jock McTwaddle, Grand Master of the Scottish rite of Tea-cakes and Scones. Others favour Martin Luther himself, genetically re-mastered, complete with that creepy black hat of his. So where were we? Oh yes, the Pope will drive up to the centre of the square, while the fountains are turned full blast to drench all participants with Coca-cola. Simultaneously the Moslem terrorists will be invited to take pot-shots at the assembled company from the Papal apartments (with a preferential option for Catholics), according to the highest ideals of Religious Freedom, freedom of self-expression, and all that is noblest in Conciliar teaching. Pentecostalists placed on strategic roof-tops with outstretched arms will send the ‘Spirit’ down on any-one surviving the gun-shots. Wind-machines positioned at four edges of the square will blow sticky red love-hearts in all directions. The era of Tenderness will officially begin when the first love-heart sticks to His Holiness. At this point the choir and all participants will sing together ‘We believe in Love’, swaying from side to side with arms in the air and faces gazing heavenwards.

Webnews: The third gesture?

Mgr. Psittacus: - follows the dance. The Pope calls for silence and solemnly announces the abolition of the Catholic Faith. 

Webnews: This may come as somewhat of a surprise to our readers, so I would ask  Your Excellency to ‘unpack’ it a bit.

Mgr. Psittacus: With the Council the Church came to an awareness of herself. This was one of her intents. She realized that she was offensive, divisive. This was not nice, not tender. For this reason she started promoting Religious Freedom: she no longer provided the only way of living. She continued with Ecumenism. The Pope, in the latest declaration of his Aeroplane Magisterium, has called it a mortal sin for a Catholic to convert another Christian. Clearly the same applies to all Religions. We have seen crucifixes concealed in public, and how can you help it, when a chief Moslem inches away from the Pope is praying Allah to destroy us all, like we saw last Pentecost. It was offensive to the Mullah, or at least embarrassing, and that’s just not on, if tenderness is your game.

Webnews: So the Cross is out and tenderness in.

Mgr. Psittacus: That’s the shift in love I was talking about. Then there was the testimony of the Bishops’ Synods on the Family. Remember how a Korean Bishop asked for the abolition of the Sacrament of Marriage? The Wisdom of the East. So where was I? (His Excellency reaches into a breast pocket and draws out an agenda.) Ah yes, the Pope starts the Abolition Speech by apologizing to all Religions, peoples, and persons (including atheists) for all genocides, massacres, crusades, witch-hunts,  fundamentalism, doctrinal and moral rigidity and general nastiness perpetrated by the Church over the centuries... five minutes grovelling ... let’s see now... He will then renounce the Papacy and, in imitation of St. Francis himself, will divest himself of the cassock and don a white kimono-style towelling-robe. The president of the United nations, Miss Bunny Moon, will pronounce him President of the World Religions and affix a plastic name-tag to this effect onto the robe.

After a pause for waving to all and sundry, he will be escorted back to Santa Marta’s for a hamburger and chips, swilled down with a Nesquik strawberry milk-shake. He will continue to live on the premises, already de-Catholicized by substituting crosses for crucifixes. A large clothes’ rail will be installed in the corridor outside his room with the outfits and wigs pertaining to his new office. The Vatican stylist cum make-up artist will take up residence in a converted broom-cupboard off the corridor.

The next day St. Peter’s will be transformed into the World Religion Centre. Each side-chapel will be dedicated to a different Religion, where rites are performed and the public received by respective priests or ministers. Drinks and snacks will be available at the two areas originally designated by the Council as bars (‘Bar Jonah’ and ‘Bar Abbas’), confessionals will be turned into Turkish baths, and a spa with sauna will be installed in the baptistery with an all-day breakfast , courtesy of Unichem. Gift shops for crystals, personal aura-polishing kits, cheap and nasty vegan specials and such like will fill remaining spaces, manned by snappy, Chinese atheists, while pointless and insipid string and electronic music will be echoing around the edifice all day long, with a 20 minute repeat-loop. A madwoman will be enthroned on the High Altar, crowned as the ‘Goddess of Unreason’, shrieking, howling, laughing and weeping, and jabbering nonsense around the clock.

The ex-Pope will drop in every day in a different religious costume: one day a Lutheran pastor with tabs, another a Jewish rabbit, Rabbi that is, complete with beard and ringlets, one day in yellow, another in bright orange, and so on. On Saturdays he will appear as an Agnostic, the Man of To-day, Son of the Apes, in a classical biker’s outfit with greased black wig and blue suede orthopaedic jack-boots, while riot police are brought in to tighten security, to avoid female fans breaking through the cordons for tenderness-related motives. On Sundays, however, in memory of the Old Religion and old times, he will wear white: a white suit with bell-bottoms and white trilby, with a rainbow dog-collar.    

Sunny days he will spend in a hammock in the Vatican gardens ‘suspended between Heaven and Earth’, sipping fruit punch through a flexi-straw and welcoming all callers with a spiritual hug, unless they’re Catholic of course, when they’ll get a good braining.