April 9th, 2005

Peter And John Paul

I'm in the middle of reading Roger Lewis's enormous Life And Death Of Peter Sellers- which runs to over 1,000 pages. Sellers was always peculiar, but career success drove him over the edge into full blown paranoid schizophrenia. Oddly enough, his madness never affected his art- and he was as capable of giving wonderfully sensitive performances at the end of his career as he was at the beginning (though the films he graced with those amazing performances were frequently wrecked by his wayward behaviour.)

A little money, a little power- and Sellers turned into the Emperor Nero. As I've been reading this 20th century morality tale I've been thinking about the Pope. John Paul II was an immeasurably stronger character than poor Peter, but what did it do to him to be elevated to a position where he had no equals, where there was God, then himself as the unique mouthpiece of God and then, very far below him, everybody else?

Did he have doubts? Did he ever wonder whether he might be wrong in the opinions he laid down as law? And did he have any friends? Peter didn't; it's very hard for the powerful to have friends; people are afraid of them. So was there a secret room in the Vatican where John Paul could slob around in a tee-shirt with his shoes kicked off, drinking beer with his cronies, watching TV? Were there people around him who called him Karol? People who were allowed to tease and twit and criticise?

Seems unlikely, doesn't it?

And if he never came off duty, never allowed himself to be vulnerable, how inhuman he must have become!