It’s difficult to avoid making a comment about the dying Pope. His death is such a spectacle, it’s even harder to avoid hearing about it. This morning, the Vatican claims Pope John Paul II is “lucid and aware…receiving visitors” even though the statement also notes that he has suffered cardio-pulmonary collapse and is having trouble breathing. Is it possible that the Vatican spin bishops don’t want the world to watch the pope die unaware, much like Terry Shiavo did just yesterday? And why must we be led to believe that John Paul is serene. Would they really tell us if he were writhing and gasping in his last hours — and what does it mean if they don’t tell us this?
Let’s call for plain language reporting: “The Pope is dying.” He will probably die today. Last night on The National, a Catholic Church guest kept saying how the Pope is “taking his leave.” He even said, “Taking leave is never easy.” Millions of overworked Japanese concur.
Until we start to use the word death more, and talk more openly about dying, we won’t be able to let go of the glitter, false hope and spin that characterize the modern church. Modern religious practice is a distraction from simple truths: Life is now. Death is inevitable. The afterlife is a mystery. We should stop living our lives entertained by the notion that our misery and fear somehow earn us a serene usherance into a guilded hereafter. When the Pope dies, I hope somebody says this.