Monday, 10 March 2014

The Law of Succession: Bad Pope Benedict, Good Pope Francis

Molti anni fa - many years ago - the anthropologist, Edmund Leach, trying to introduce to English readers the structuralist ideas of Claude Lévi Strauss, playfully suggested that the Binary operation of the human mind ensures that in English history - as taught to children - Good Kings are succeeded by Bad Kings and Bad Kings by Good Kings. Some allowance has to be made for the fact that the English law of succession allows for women to become Kings but it does not fundamentally alter the way the human mind works.

As a result, we already know that Good King Elizabeth will be succeeded by Bad King Charles and that Bad King Charles will make way for Good King William. As a further consequence - since the English, lacking any democratic spirit,  like to settle matters for future generations not yet born - we know that Good King William will be succeeded by Bad King George.

It works for Popes too. Bad Pope Benedict - mean, prissy, reactionary - has been succeeded by Good Pope Francis - generous, indulgent, progressive - but with the unfortunate consequence that Pope Francis will be succeeded by a Bad Pope who will promptly undo all his good work.

In this case, the Nasty Party within the Catholic Church - the money launderers, the Inquisitors, the theologians, the Americans - is already plotting its return to power - of that, you can be sure. And so it is just not the way the human mind works which will bring about the next Bad Pope. It is Bad People who believe in their Divine Right to pull the puppet strings.

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