Good Pope Bad Pope

It’s shaping up to be a bad week all round for major religions, with the US letting its diplomatic mission be used to serve court papers on the Pope. These allege that he was involved in a conspiracy of silence over child abuse, which I think we might fairly say is about as self-evident as his Catholicism. He’ll never stand trial for it of course, but as empty gestures go it’s an impressive one.

It’s been better I suppose for the world’s second most famous head of a religion, the Dalai Lama. (Some describe Buddhism as a philosophy rather than a religion, but anything that claims you can survive death fits my definition.) Then again, is the Dalai Lama really a Buddhist leader? During his visit to Ireland we’ve had everyone from nuns to people who describe themselves as non-religious out to greet him. He is perhaps the figurehead of that fastest-growing denomination in modern society, the Not Into Organised Religion But A Spiritual Sort Of Person; people who want to believe that there is meaning to life, but are reluctant to speculate about what exactly it might be.

Of course, there is nothing vague about Buddhism. Like any religion it presents a blueprint for what it considers to be a well-ordered society. It is a set of rules, and indeed one with great emphasis on discipline. But the 14th DL is himself a likeable, diplomatic type with a reluctance to give offence, so he comes across as preaching little more than niceness. He’s become the Pope of Vague.

He does seem to be a nice person, it is true. And as nice people go, probably the one most likely to spark war between India and China.

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