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The Pope, Catholicism and German bureaucracy April 3, 2005

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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The Pope’s death has aroused a number of thoughts and memories in me. I can’t say I’m devastatingly sad at his death. I’d like to think I’m a non-political gay person, at least as far as gayness is concerned, but it’s hard to ignore being branded intrinsically evil. I think our wickedness has actually been downgraded somewhat; now it’s just the acts themselves that are evil and not us or the impulses to perform the acts.

Anyway… It’s big news of course. The church and Catholics will mourn and many half-wise words will be said. But a new Pope will be chosen and the church will plod on. His successor will have his work cut out, though. This Pope built his bridges at turbulent times and oversaw major world events. Choosing a Pole as Pope in the late 70s was an inspired move, and I don’t think his and the church’s role in battling against communism is exaggerated. Good for him for that. And I approve all the travelling and the inter-faith dialogue.

But I am an atheist, and actually an ex-Catholic, so I can only feel vicarious mourning if any at all beyond what I normally feel when I hear anyone has died. Ex-Catholic as opposed to lapsed. I never was a practising Catholic, and obviously had no say in the matter of becoming one as I was christened when I was three weeks old. But Germany being what it is, you can actually officialise your exness. As a freelancer, it was over a year after arriving here that I got my first tax bill. I had, of course, filled out a billion forms beforehand and had had to declare my religion. Fear of officialdom/authority made me pen in Catholicism, even if I didn’t consider myself one. (I thought if I lied I might go to prison, although German prison holds no mental dread for me; I’m sure it’s probably only peopled with those who ignore the new spelling rules and jaywalkers.) When the bill came, I saw that I had to pay a surcharge of 9%, if my memory serves me correctly, on top of the amount to be paid, to the church. Atheism and tightness combined left me less than pleased. But I’d heard of people leaving the church in Germany left right and centre, and a little bit of research at the tax office itself had me informed that it was just a case of going to the relative department, filling in a form – natch – and hey presto, you’ve left the church. I rather liked the idea of being able to delete bits of your past in a dreary office with two underworked women playing computer card-games. What else would I like to delete? Kilburn High Road? Saving Private Ryan? Shit yet expensive dinners?

Anyway, here’s to the Pope, to a life well lived. Requiescat in pace.

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