JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

The Vatican and Jesus Christ

Because we’re in Rome, and because when Americans travel to Rome they’re required—by unwritten law—to do certain things, yesterday we visited the Vatican.

Now, I’d been to the ol’ Vatican once before. It was 1999, and I spent two weeks backpacking through Italy. I waited on the lines, took the tours, oohed and aahed at the ceiling. When I finally left, I felt neither holy nor enlightened, but in need of a long, long, long, long shower.

Ditto 2011.

I can understand and appreciate faith. I can understand and appreciate God. Hell, i can understand how one walks into a huge Roman church, views the stained glass and the precise scuptures and thinks, “There has to be something. There has to be.”

I can’t understand the Vatican.

How many people are homeless in this world? How many people have little-to-nothing to eat. How many people struggle to get by? Struggle to care for their families? Struggle to find a job? Meanwhile, the Catholic Church runs and operates this … this … city, which—all told—has cost billions upon billions of dollars. I mean, Rome is littered with the poor and hungry and homeless. Literally, they can be found in the Vatican’s shadow, begging for spare change on the steps of churches. Yet The Church—The Catholic Church—insists it needs to honor God and Jesus and Mary in this gaudy manner.

I actually think back to J.D. Drew, the first athlete I recall wearing the WWJD bracelet back in the day. Drew was a humble guy who tried to do right. So I ask here, in the city that houses the Vatican, what would Jesus do? He was a man of no money; a man who walked with the sinners and prostitutes; a man who felt pain and oozed—beyond oozed—compassion.

Would he look at the Vatican and think, “This is exactly what I want?”

I find that hard to fathom.