The Vatican Diaries and the Illusion of Unity

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When you study Orientalism and the media, you learn that Islam is falsely portrayed as a monolithic force, an unified whole with little room for dissent or the messiness of humanity. The media throw around terms like “Muslim extremist,” “fatwa,” and “imam” without explanation or any apparent need to distinguish between schools of Islam. This is, of course, a baldly incorrect perspective: Islam is as varied and complex as the billion people who make it up.

While Muslim leaders struggle against this illusion of unity, Catholic leaders have cultivated it for centuries. The Church is The Church–it is to speak with one voice, guide with one hand, be always one with the body of God. Yet, books like “The Vatican Diaries” reveal the truth: that Catholicism is, indeed, as messy as any other religion. Religious traditions, you see, are artifacts of humanity, and thus all reflect our flaws back upon us.

The Catholic Church is a complicated institution, where politics can be as important as faith, where money can disappear, where hundreds or thousands of voices can set to war with one another. It is subject to oversights, to changes of opinion, to all the other imperfections of humanity. From forgetting to warn the Pope that acrobats were going to spend 10 minutes stripping in front of him, to accidentally de-excommunicating a vociferous Holocaust denier, the Catholic Church is a mess–but it’s a juicy and ultimately beautiful mess.

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