Sunday, April 03, 2005

Choose Your Own Opinion

With the death of Pope John Paul II, journalists around the world are sitting down to write opinion pieces about the pros and cons of his papacy, and speculating about what the whole business means. Rather than going the traditional route by telling you what we think, we here at Sterne have put together a Choose Your Own Opinion piece where you, the reader, call the shots. Simply start reading at [1] and follow the instructions to decide where your opinion goes next!

[1]

The death of Pope John Paul II is an event of monumental significance. The world's billion Catholics are in mourning, while for many outside that faith, the pontiff's passing will be a time to pause and reflect on his legacy, and on the role of religion in the twenty-first century.

If you feel that Pope John Paul II's reign was beneficial to the world at large, go to [7]. If you are critical of his papacy, go to [3].

[2]

Thus, in addition to being the spiritual leader of millions, Pope John Paul II was a warrior for freedom, a defender of democracy, and a great Polish patriot. It is this ability to apply the precepts of his faith to the problems of the temporal world, that will ensure John Paul's position as one of the great figures of the modern era.

If you would like to segue into a discussion of the Pope's humanitarianism, go to [12]. If you prefer to analyse his significance in a world where religion is becoming more influential, go to [5].

[3]

Unfortunately, the Pope has bequeathed the world a Catholic Church that is both more powerful and more irrelevant than when he was elected in 1978. Twenty years earlier, Pope John XXIII had called for an "aggiornamiento", a "bringing up to date" of an institution whose authoritarian heirachy and "holy isolation" was coming to seem ever more dated in a world quickly embracing democratic egalitarianism. The progressive changes wrought in the years following Vatican II have, however, been almost completely reversed in the last twenty-five years, and the power of the Pope himself has increased to the point of absolutism.

If you would like to discuss the Pope's humanitarianism, go to [12]. If you prefer to analyse his part in bringing down Soviet Communism, go to [10].

[4]

This can only be a good thing. In a world riven by hatred and violence, we need more people like John Paul II, people willing to live by the tenets of their faith, while never losing sight of the diversity of human belief, and the necessity of caring for all peoples. The contemplation of a greater force enriched the life of John Paul II, and he in turn has enriched our world. We owe him our thoughts, and our prayers.

The End

[5]

We appear to be entering a new era of spirituality, one in which faith is playing an ever more important role in our everyday lives, and in our politics. The death of Pope John Paul II will serve as another reminder of the power belief has in our world.

If you see an increase in the influence of religion as positive, go to [4]. If you see it as negative, go to [11].

[6]

John Paul was not afraid to ruffle some powerful feathers with his calls for a more peaceful world. He was perhaps the most prominent critic of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, while his insistence upon the essentially humanitarian basis of missionary work has brought its share of disapproval in the religion-phobic West. Yet from Africa to Asia, to the spiritually barren plains of post-Cold War Eastern Europe, the Pope has never shied away from spreading his vision of love and community.

If you would like to segue into a discussion of the Pope's part in bringing down Soviet Communism, go to [10]. If you prefer to analyse his significance in a world where religion is becoming more influential, go to [5].

[7]

John Paul II, for all his human faults and frailties, was a strong and principled leader, a beacon of hope in a cruel world. His was a reign remarkable for its vitality: the stocky pontiff, criss-crossing the globe, spreading the twin doctrines of faith and decency.

If you would like to discuss the Pope's humanitarianism, go to [12]. If you prefer to analyse his part in bringing down Soviet Communism, go to [10].

[8]

John Paul's actions, however, told a different story. The near-pacifism of his attitude towards armed conflict saw him condemn not only Serbian ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, but the 1999 NATO intervention intended to put an end to the atrocities. While espousing the dignity of the individual, his hardline stance on contraception, women's rights, and homosexuality has caused untold suffering and division. Finally, and perhaps most damningly, John Paul lobbied the British government to release Augusto Pinochet "for humanitarian reasons". While apparently unsympathetic towards the millions dying from AIDS, the Pope seems to have been quite willing to come to the assistance of fellow Cold Warriors, no matter how infamously cruel.

If you would like to segue into a discussion of the Pope's part in bringing down Soviet Communism, go to [10]. If you prefer to analyse his significance in a world where religion is becoming more influential, go to [5].

[9]

However, John Paul was motivated by more than the desire for a free Polish state. A life-long critic of Marxism, the Pope was at the vanguard of a conservative Christian front seeking to kill off Communism for good. As with many other Cold Warriors, John Paul subscribed to a "my enemy's enemy is my friend" philosophy, giving him close ties with such tyrannical luminaries as Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

If you would like to segue into a discussion of the Pope's humanitarianism, go to [12]. If you prefer to analyse his significance in a world where religion is becoming more influential, go to [5].

[10]

The Pope's contribution to the downfall of the Soviet Union is widely acknowledged. As a Cardinal in Communist Poland, he worked tirelessly to promote the Church, establishing it as an alternative power centre under the very eyes of the country's puppet government. As pontiff, John Paul was an influential supporter of Lech Walesa's Solidarity Trade Union, the movement which ultimately brought Poland independence.

If you would like to criticise the Pope's part in bringing down Soviet Communism, go to [9]. If you prefer to praise it, go to [2]

[11]

This can only be a bad thing. In a world riven by hatred and violence, we need less people like John Paul II, with their inflexible doctrines and authoritarian pronouncements. We need to recognise the diversity of human belief, and the necessity of caring for all peoples. The contemplation of a greater force may have enriched the life of John Paul II, but it tears our world apart a little more each day. We owe John Paul II our thoughts, if for nothing else than he was a survivor, but only a fool would offer him prayers.

The End

[12]

John Paul II often spoke against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and he was particularly concerned with humanitarian issues, maintaining that the dignity of the individual is the basis for all moral rights. Throughout his papacy, he was vocal in his condemnation of those who fail to respect this most essential of precepts.

If you would like to criticise the Pope's humanitarianism, go to [8]. If you prefer to praise it, got to [6].

1 comment:

Le Driver said...

Ah, very clever, Tim :).