Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Pope Approves

In the end of The Travels of Sir John Mandeville,  the Pope is brought in to make the novel significant. The line paraphrases to be "The Pope read it and he's okay with it, so this is all true and you should believe me". At first, the notion of people believing something because the Pope approved rang to be ridiculous, I then thought about it further. In present times, Catholic populations rely on the Pope to spread messages. With the recent Pope Francis, this has led to some tension, as Pope Francis is for more socially liberal things, such as gay marriage, which contradicts some previously held opinions by higher ups within the church.

How does this relate to Mandeville? There is a sort of blind acceptance between church and followers, which stems from both the Pope and the bible itself. Take the reality show, "19 Kids and Counting". This is a family that has become so huge because of the belief that God advocates for having as many kids as possible. Why do they believe this? Because the Bible said so, so it must be true. While this may seem outlandish, and something to scoff at, the fact that they have remained on television for so long shows that there are people who eat up the spectacle, as well as maybe even believing in it as well.

Another example is the Westboro Baptist Church, which advocates that everyone is going to hell. They, as a church, demonize soldiers, members of the LGBTQIA community, liberals, or anyone not like them as not fit to go to their heaven. This could be directly related back to Mandeville, where places or people that were considered "bad" were either badly described, othered, or simply told to be "not good and that you should never go there". In both cases, there is a need to paint differences as grotesque and wrong in order to prove that You, as the church or as Sir Mandeville, are in the right. The excuses for such are the same too; it all boils down to acceptance from God as a way to whitewash discrimination as righteousness.Westboro_Baptist_Church_at_Brown_University,_May_2009.jpg

So, the attitudes of "The Pope/the Church/ the Bible/ God approves my message, therefore it is right" is far from being just a medieval attitude, as there are still existing social movements happening today that capitalize on it. And while we might have some more progressive thinkers in power right now in the Church, the next Pope may bring us back to medieval thinking again.


  1. Hi, Genny, I totally agree with you. People have been leaning on the Pope and God to support their ideas for a long time. Even after we have supposedly entered the Modern and Post-Modern periods of thought, religion remains a basis for many wrong assumptions and groups who perpetuate those assumptions like the Westboro Baptist Church. Can you imagine if Mandeville had tried to ground his findings in actual scientific fact? It makes me wonder if the the place of religion has really changed over the course of time. We're not necessarily portraying Muslims and Jews as dogs and murderers anymore, but their otherness hasn't changed. And, as you point out, it seems we may be headed in the direction of a world more willing to revert back to those religious biases.

  2. I've read about how some conservative Catholics are upset about Pope Francis' more liberal positions and think that they are being ignored. There was even a cardinal that said the church was rudderless with Pope Francis leading it. I wonder how those who oppose Pope Francis can also believe that the pope is God's representative. It seems that even the most conservative Catholics have moved on from the medieval idea that the pope's approval is needed for everything.
    I think that the unusual religious denominations found in the US are the result of very little central authority compared to the Catholic church. In Europe, the government often had a designated state religion, and those who didn't follow it were persecuted. Catholicism had the Vatican as its authority. In the US, freedom of religion allowed some people to be less religious, but it also allowed the creation of unorthodox denominations like Quiverfull.