The pope died a week ago and the news coverage is finally dying down. My friend David talked on Thursday about his views on the Pope and the Catholic church, some of which I agree with. But as the Vietnamese said after Richard Nixon’s death, “There are no enemies in death.”
I disagreed with this Pope on some issues, agreed with him on others. His “Culture of Life” stance against condoms and birth control was horrifying in the face of AIDS, the third-world population explosion, and modern attitudes about women’s reproductive rights, but at least it was consistent and predictable. The guy believed that this is what God wants. You just can’t despise people on matters of faith. When you look at his overall career, you’ve got to admire a man who stood up to bullies (like the Soviets and George W. Bush) for what he thought was a good and noble cause. Besides, for all his admonitions for teens not to have sex and not to use contraception, there’s a lot of evidence that shows they loved hearing the message but couldn’t remember it on Saturday night.
But David also gripes about the coverage of his death, which I agree was mostly insipid and redundant. One thing that was nice to read was how he died. He refused to be taken back to the hospital, preferring to die right in his apartment. Various people he had worked with all these years came by for brief good-byes. He couldn’t talk to them, but they all reported seeing recognition and love in his eyes for them.
It makes me think of similar death scenes, like that of Alan Ginsburg and Mark Twain. To go quietly, in your own bed: What a beautiful way to die.