Traverse City Record-Eagle

Generation Why

May 4, 2010

The Vatican forgives the Beatles

Surviving boys from Liverpool back in good graces

Last month, on the 40th anniversary of The Beatles' breakup, the Catholic Church's official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, issued a Papal dispensation the band, essentially, for living the lives of the astronomical rock stars they were.

"It's true, they took drugs; swept up by their success, they lived dissolute and uninhibited lives," L'Osservatore reported. "They even said they were more famous than Jesus."

L'Osservatore refers to a 1966 interview in which John Lennon infamously remarked: "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue that; I'm right and I'll be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first — rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me."

The comment, for obvious reasons, sparked what may daintily be referred to as a violent pandemonium in the marbled halls and baroque cathedrals around the world.

It's easy to see why the Catholic Church, or any church of Christ, might have been upset with Lennon and the boys from Liverpool. The Klu Klux Klan even graced the group with an audience and picketed several U.S. shows. At Beatles' manager Brian Epstein's urgent request, Lennon quickly recanted in a televised press conference. And the Catholic Church is now deciding to forgive the Beatles for their transgressions.

"But, listening to their songs, all of this seems distant and meaningless," the paper said.

"Their beautiful melodies, which changed forever pop music and still give us emotions, live on like precious jewels."

This isn't the first time the Holy See has conceded some of its condemnations. In 1992, a mere 350 years after Galileo's death, Pope John Paul II recanted the Church's excommunication of the scientist for supporting Copernicus' observation that the earth in fact circles the sun. This was heresy. It only took them 40 years to forgive four boys from Liverpool for playing some rock 'n' roll songs and doing and saying some impertinent things; it would seem the church is gazing in a more enlightened direction.

Ringo Starr responded to the church: "I think the Vatican, they've got more to talk about than The Beatles."

Starr alludes to a legitimate point: Why, amid a resurgence of allegations of pedophilia and other sex abuse in the church on a global scale, does the Vatican's newspaper see the prudence in writing a tribute spread to The Beatles? At least two Beatles might find their way out of the ninth circle of Hell in their dispensation. One hopes the boys get the news.

Jack Hagen is co-editor-in-chief of the Black and Gold newspaper at Traverse City Central High School.

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