Vatican “forgives” Lennon…

St. John Lennon.jpgThat’d be John, not Vladimir. (Yes, I know, and it’s Lennon, not Lenin.) And “forgive” would be the hedder on the Reuters version of the story about L’Osservatore Romano’s remarkable appreciation of The Beatles on the 40th anniversary of The White Album.
It was John who, in 1966 and at the height of the group’s fame, told a London newspaper, “We’re more popular than Jesus now.” Many were furious, of course–who wasn’t in those days, which are so much like our own. But as the AP version has it, the Vatican’s “official” daily was philosophical about the rocker’s claim:


“The remark by John Lennon, which triggered deep indignation mainly in the United States, after many years sounds only like a ‘boast’ by a young working-class Englishman faced with unexpected success, after growing up in the legend of Elvis and rock and roll.”

Lennon was also joking, displaying the kind of irreverent irony that was shocking then but which would become the foundation of much of modern discourse, and comedy.
Perhaps the bigger question is whether the article in the pope’s paper will prompt any more brow-furrowing inside and outside Rome over the efforts by its new editor, Giovanni Maria Vian, to make the broadsheet a must-read. A recent article by Vaticanista Sandro Magister details some of the controversies.
Recall that a former archbishop of Milan, Giovanni Battista Montini, lamented that “no one reads it [l’Osservatore] at the coffee bar!” When Montini became Pope Paul VI, he reportedly wondered about including sports coverage. But the paper actually became more boring after Paul, and, ironically, under John Paul II, who had little interest in it. Left to its own devices, the newspaper became the Vatican version of Pravda, listing official activities of the Holy Father and glowing reports of audiences and texts of speeches. And none of it on line.
Pope Paul envisioned a newspaper that “does not seek only to furnish news; it intends to influence thought. It is not enough for it to report events as they happen: it intends to comment on them in order to indicate how they should have happened, or not happened. It does not only conduct a conversation with its readers; it conducts one with the world: it comments, discusses, polemicizes.”
Well, 40 years later, much is finally changing. Then again, l’Osservatore did not include a critique of these lines of Lennon, from 1971, when he was on his own:


Imagine there’s no heaven,
It’s easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries,
It isn’t hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace…

Check back in 2011.
PS: Extra credit for figuring out which Beatle was Catholic. Over at dotCommonweal, Mollie Wilson O’Reilly has the buzz.
Prayer Card via this site.

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posted November 24, 2008 at 11:47 am

Well, it sounds like the Vatican is right on top of things. I wonder what their position on Elton John will be?
As far as Lennon in “Imagine,” he also asked us to imagine what it would be like with no possessions, which, considering his wealth, he failed at. Sorry, while it got a lot of acclaim, I thought it was awful.

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posted November 24, 2008 at 7:20 pm

Well, if John was still alive, I guess he would be “pleased”. OR note care. The song is one of my favorites….

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Your Name

posted November 24, 2008 at 7:21 pm

Well, if John was still alive, I guess he would be “pleased”. OR note care. The song is one of my favorites….

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Charles Cosimano

posted November 24, 2008 at 7:44 pm

I’m sure all the aging Beatles fans will be impressed if they can stop laughing long enough to be.

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posted November 25, 2008 at 12:28 am

I can’t find the actual Lennon article from the Vatican – can you provide me with a link to it. To me it does not make any sense to say the Vatican “forgives” Lennon. The poor man is dead and has already faced God’s judgment as well as the Vatican knows.
So where is the substance in this story?
As to the paper being boring; well that says more about the audience than the newspaper itself. Perhaps we should ask who has the dull mind? The author or the reader?

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posted November 25, 2008 at 2:20 am

God is great,freedom is great,lets be thankful for we can fallow who we want or desire.

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posted November 25, 2008 at 9:58 am

Well, since forgiveness is an act that cleanses the forgiver’s soul more than it benefits the forgiven, I guess it makes sense. But wwho exactly is “The Vatican”? Does it have a soul?
Anyway, IMO, John Lennon had remarkable principles for a man of his age…let’s not forget how young he was when he wrote some of those things and said some of those things. Being young and brash, however, he lacked the diplomatic skills to convey his message more tactfully.
He was quoted years later about the “Jesus” comment and said his intent was to point out the absurdity of celebrity worship. The fact that he was barely 25 and unaware of the impact of his words led to the controversy.

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Charles Laster

posted November 25, 2008 at 2:39 pm

Well, that’s large of them. ‘Imagine’ has always been one of my favorite songs, about life on a renewed earth. doesn’t have to be interpeted as athiestic, or marxist. shine on, John.

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Paaul Willson

posted November 25, 2008 at 5:34 pm

I think is now as it was at the time much ado about nothing.
On my parishes festal day our assistant priest came down the aiske during his sermon sing Ave maria, and Let it be which has a refernve to :Mother Mary ” Always liked that song. It helped this past 3 months when I had a loevd one dying on me. So thanks to
John Paul George & Ringo.

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posted November 26, 2008 at 7:33 am

I remember reading a short article (I think it was in Newsweek in the US) where John was musing about the furor over the remark. He told the interviewer “I think it will be a while yet before people realize that we were never even as big as Mickey Mouse.”

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posted December 3, 2008 at 10:18 am

Talk about Nero fiddling while Rome burns! How foolish…

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