Miles Kington: My sainted aunt! A marketing opportunity...

Saints' lives had to be embroidered, or they'd all be the same kind of antisocial, goody goody non-joiner
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Yesterday, we visited the United Deities, to see how all gods past and present were viewing events down here on Earth, and we found that up there in Heaven they were still mulling over the recent papal election. Here are some more minutes from the same meeting.

1. The chairgod said that unless anyone had any further observations about the papacy, they might pass on to the next item on the agenda, which was whether merger talks between the Jewish God and the Christian God had progressed at all.

2. Allah said that he wanted to ask one more question about the papacy.

3. The chairgod invited him to go ahead and ask it.

4. Well, said Allah, he was puzzled by the energy of the most recent Pope, John Paul II, in creating saints. Apparently, John Paul II had created more saints in his papacy than had been created in the previous 200 years.

5. What was all that about, asked Allah? Was John Paul II better at spotting saints? Was it akin to stuffing the House of Lords with Labour peers, as British prime ministers were wont to do? Could the Catholic God explain what this saint business was all about?

6. The Catholic God reiterated that he bore no responsibility for what popes might do or say. Popes were not primarily holy men, but managing directors, promoted from within the Catholic hierarchy. They were functionaries, managers, enablers, executives. They were ambitious go-getters.

7. Saint creation was all part of that. It was a marketing ploy. When a pope decreed that some martyr or other became a saint, it didn't mean that anyone up in Heaven actually became a saint. It just meant that the Catholic Church had created another selling opportunity.

8. He, the Catholic God, had sometimes gone visiting the worthy dead in Heaven, and had occasionally come across souls of people who, He knew, had been granted sainthood down on Earth. In every case, he said, the "saint" had no idea he had been sainted, and showed no interest when he learnt of it.

9. The chairgod said that they had discussed this before, and the general feeling was that as the Catholic religion was so poor in gods compared to Hinduism, and the old Greek and Roman pantheons, the Catholics had to compensate by creating saints as a sort of minor god equivalent.

10. Allah said he could see the point, but he always felt that the Catholic saints were a colourless lot, and did not contribute much to the gaiety of storytelling. They all died miserably ...

11. On the contrary, said the Catholic God. They were all glorious martyrs.

12. Or to put it another way, said Allah, they all died miserably. In fact, so many of the early ones died miserably after long periods of being persecuted for their faith that they never had time to do anything interesting. That is why their stories had to be embroidered after their death, as with St George and the dragon. Otherwise all the saints would be the same stereotype, a kind of long-suffering antisocial non-joiner goody-goody whistle-blower, a sort of religious Guardian reader.

13. The chairgod said he felt that this particular conversation had passed beyond its usefulness and proposed that they should close the discussion of the papal election.

14. The Anglican God wondered, while they were on elections, if anyone had anything to say about the national election taking place in Great Britain.

15. There were roars of laughter, and cries of "Nice one, Anglican God".

16. The chairgod said he took this to mean that the idea of there being anything interesting to say about a British election was laughable, and proposed a move to the next item on the agenda, which was to fix the date of the annual picnic.

17. Jupiter said he thought the next item was news of a merger between the Jewish God and the Christian God.

18. The chairgod said yes, it had been, but he had meanwhile received notes from both of them saying there was nothing new to discuss.

More from the gods soon...