Ali had Rope-a-Dope, Benedict’s got Pope-a-Dope

by Jim Longworth

In his classic bout with big George Foreman, underdog Muhammad Ali introduced fight fans to “rope-a-dope.” It was a tactic whereby Ali kept leaning back into the ropes, making Foreman do all the work. Foreman was fooled into thinking he was making progress when, in reality, he was only growing increasingly tired while trusting his opponent’s body language. Suddenly Ali came off the ropes and dropped Foreman with one punch. For nearly 50 years the Vatican has been pretending to dialogue with other ecumenical leaders, presumably in an effort to achieve Christian unity. But all along, the Pope’s non-Catholic opponents were really just victims of rope-a-dope. Last week Pope Benedict came off the ropes and threw a haymaker at everyone who won’t kiss his ring. While vacationing at his luxurious villa, Benedict lashed out, saying, “Christ established here on earth only one church. The other communities cannot be called churches in the proper sense… their priestly ordinations are not valid… other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches, and Catholicism provides the only one true path to salvation….” So much for dialogue with Protestants, who had been led to believe that we all belonged to one big happy family. That was before we got the wind knocked out of us by His so-called Holiness. Can you imagine what would have happened if Pat Robertson or Al Sharpton had spoken similar words aimed against Catholics? Al and Pat would have been (pardon the expression) crucified by the media. But the pope’s arrogant attack garnered only a small space in most newspapers, and only a handful of religious organizations have even hinted at criticism of the Pontiff. So let me be the first to state the obvious: Benedict (real name Joseph Ratzinger) is an obnoxious, bigoted man who will do or say anything to protect and preserve his power and the papal empire. According to’s Mel Seesholtz, Benedict was Pope John Paul’s enforcer (some nicknamed him “God’s Rotweiller”), who helped oversee the massive cover-up of church sex scandals. Rather than apologize for the abuses and institute reform, Ratz instead purged his seminaries of gay priests to shift blame onto innocent homosexuals, and divert attention away from the real problem of pedophilia. Benedict was also John Paul’s right hand man in the 1990s, when the Pope preached that using condoms was a sin. His message was directed at the millions of uneducated people in third-world countries who suffered the ravages of overpopulation, mainly starvation and AIDS. Meanwhile, the Vatican continued to build upon its wealth and power on the backs of those same poor people. In his book Vatican Billions, Avro Manhattan detailed the vast holdings of the Roman Catholic Church which, in the mid 1980s, amounted to over $500 million in the United States alone. One Catholic priest commented that the church is the biggest corporation in America, with a branch office in nearly every neighborhood. Moreover, according to United Nations data, the Vatican’s treasure of solid gold is in excess of several billion dollars, and their current total wealth worldwide is estimated at between $10 and $15 billion dollars. Greg Szymanksi, writing for in March 2006, related a true story that anecdotally captured the essence and dichotomy of the church and its followers. Back in 1982, Szymanski was attending a mass in Spain when a street beggar broke into the service and began screaming at the top of his lungs: “All you criminals at the altar – especially you, Father, with all those gold rings and chalices… give the money to the starving people.” But greedy, corporate, homophobic men like Benedict are not moved by the cries of the abused or the poor. They are only interested in protecting the church’s power and wealth. Benedict says that his is the only true church and that the rest of us are SOL when it comes to salvation. News flash, Ratz: Jesus may have wanted Peter to continue his good work and deeds, but there is no proof that Christ intended to establish a divine line of succession of arrogant, power-hungry popes whose jaded priorities serve to spread poverty and disease through ignorance, guilt and fear while building unimaginable wealth for the corporate church itself. Read your Bible, Benedict. Jesus once drove moneychangers like you from the temple, and he had no patience for holy men lacking in tolerance. Were he alive today, I believe Jesus would make you liquidate your vast holdings and give the money to the poor. And I believe he would dissolve the papacy, at least in its present incarnation. I also believe that Jesus would be appalled at the pope’s statement that only Vatican loyalists can achieve salvation. It’s time for the papacy to go the way of the Model-T, and for the church to divest itself of its trappings. Catholics can continue to worship without dictates from Rome, and their tithes can start going directly to help the needy in their own neighborhoods. Many people still recognize the primacy of the Pope, but after last week’s rant, most of us just recognize the pope as a primate. It’s time for us to get up off the mat and stop being rope-a-doped by an old white man who could give a Ratz ass about the original mission of Jesus. Jim Longworth is host of “Triad Today,” which can be seen Friday mornings at 6 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on MY 48 (cable channel 15).