Sorry, dead people

The fashion for apologising for things that happened many centuries ago has now hit the Vatican, which is about to publish a book saying it might have made a bit of a mistake, according to the Times and Telegraph .*

According to the Telegraph,

In 1307, King Philip IV “the Fair” of France, in desperate need of funds, ordered the arrest and torture of all Templars. After confessing various sins their leader, Jacques de Molay, was burnt at the stake.

And the Church quickly declared them all heretics. The new -found paper supposedly shows that pope Clement dissolved the Templar Order but said they weren’t heretics. Though the evidence for their non-heresy seems quite unconvincing, by the standards of the day, considering how little it took for a hedge-witch or a dissenting peasant to get tortured and killed for heresy (by both Catholics and Protestants) over the next few hundred years. It is tempting to suggest that the surviving Templars must have still had a fair bit of that Holy land wealth left with which to buy a relatively favourable judgement.

Now, 1307 is 700 years ago. The Vatican could teach any existing government a thing or two about keeping politically sensitive secrets.

What is the point in this? Given that the Templars were monk-knights, they shouldn’t even have any direct descendants who could accept an apology for wrongs done to their 175th generation-back ancestors. It’s obviously a soundbite thing. The Templars’ much-vaunted “secrets” have been attracting publicity again, in the silly da Vinci Code movie for a start.

Just in case, some people might be put off the Catholic Church because it did wrong in the 14th century, it’s going to apologise and set the record straight. It doesn’t cost anything. It’s not like they are going to make France hand back any of Phillip the Fair’s ill-gotten gains is it?

Much as I hate these ritual apologies to people who don’t exist any more, on behalf of the people who wronged them, but also don’t exist any more, why stop there? Why not apologise for the Crusades and the things the Catholic Church rewarded the Templars for doing? It wouldn’t make any more sense but at least it would show the beginnings of a sense of moral responsibility.

* (Look I don’t read these papers in real life. Honest. But, they are online….)

For the Love of Opus Dei

The BBC Trust has today rejected Opus Dei‘s complaint that the BBC series Waking the Dead presented their organisation unfavourably.

Opus Dei has indeed taken a bit of flak from recent fiction, notably in the movie The Da Vinci Code. Its name has become a byword for secret conspiracies with a medieval flavour.

I see from the Opus Dei website that they failed to sue the Da Vinci Code, so I am a bit baffled as to why the BBC represented a legitimate lawsuit target to them.

The BBC series was watched by 5 people in Reading. Well, OK then, maybe a few thousand people. Blimey, 7.2 million according to the BBC. (They must be exaggerating.)

Their entire budget probably wouldn’t have paid for a day’s catering on the set of the Da Vinci code. Which has been seen by zillions of people worldwide, so has garnered a lot of cash.

Here’s a bit from an interview for a Polish newspaperFrom the Prelate – The true face of Opus Dei (I’ve cut some minor reportorial sycophancies out to make this blog snappier)

W. Redzioch: Many people were surprised that …… you did not initiate a lawsuit against him or seek any compensation. Why did the Prelature react in this way?

Bishop Javier Echevarría: I would like to point out the fact that the most unfortunate aspect of Brown’s book is not what he says about Opus Dei but the falsified image of Christ and his Church that he presents to his readers. Opus Dei, which is a part of the Church, is a young, vibrant and beautiful reality. A writer’s inventions can obscure this beauty, and this is sad.
However, we realise that the beauty of the Church, which includes Opus Dei, is revealed in its fullness when we show the love of Christ and do not yield to hurt feelings. In this perspective love is the best way to present the figure of Jesus Christ and the reality of the Church. This is why our reaction, which was decisive but also courteous, was a manifestation of our sense of responsibility. Let us not forget that love is Christ’s commandment and in fact his most important commandment.
I’ll repeat once again: what is most painful about The Da Vinci Code is the way in which the author attempts to trivialize the Person of Christ.

Ah ha. They are so unselfish that they reacted with an outburst of pure love in response to a movie that they saw as bad because it “trivialised Christ”
(Oddly not because it had a daft and confusing storyline and seemed to last for a week.)

Am I misunderstanding the priorities here then? The BBC programme only offended Opus Dei. It didn’t trivialise Christ. I assume that means the BBC insult constituted a lesser offence under the Opus Dei moral code?

(Assuming that, in the afore-imagined moral code, it doesn’t rank its own importance above its god)

If the BBC had actually offended Christ, they would be getting loved up by Opus Dei by now, if the Da Vinci Code example is anything to go by.

Wow, what selflessness. They could as the Polish reporter said, have started a lawsuit against the Da Vinci Code film and got huge sums in compensation. (I am thinking of a small action on behalf of Da Vinci, myself.)

Though, they don’t seem short of a few bob, so maybe they don’t need it…..

They didn’t sue, apparently because their religious beliefs told them not to yield to hurt feelings. They didn’t sue the BBC either but complained to the BBC Board. So how is it that the BBC earned a complaint to its bosses rather than got treated to a lovefest?

I had some possible explanations ready, but it would be so much more in keeping with the spirit of this post if I leave you to devise your own.