The Heresiarch is pleased to learn that the Vatican has offically pardoned John Lennon for saying that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. Even if it hasn't. What has happened, reports the Telegraph, is that the statelet's official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano had marked the 40th anniversary of the White Album with a celebratory article. "The talent of Lennon and the other Beatles gave us some of the best pages in modern pop music," it enthuses.
L'Osservatore, the report notes, "has recently tried to shake off its stuffy image" -Indeed: this blog has periodically drawn attention to items that debuted in the Vatican journal on such subjects as UFOs, Harry Potter and a politically correct updating of the Seven Deadly Sins. And how better to show you're down with the youth by patronising what it called "an English working-class lad struggling to cope with unexpected success". Especially one who's been safely dead for almost 30 years.
Official pardon? Well I doubt Pope Benedict - more of a Mozart fan - had much to do with it. Lennon was after all part of the Sixties, the decade in which the youngish Joseph Ratzinger gradually turned from a snappily-dressed theological moderate - he played a prominent role in the Second Vatican Council - into the counter-reformation throwback we know and love today.
Still, the story does give an opportunity to have another look at Lennon's statement, from an Evening Standard interview he gave in 1966:
Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first - rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.
Forty-two years on, Christianity has certainly continued to shrink in Britain; but then so have music sales, so I'd say the race is still on. In other public comments about religion, Lennon frequently expressed a naive universalism that is quintessentially hippyish, but also recalls Karen Armstrong. Here's another of his insightful pensées:
I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It's just that the translations have gone wrong.
I wonder what gave him that idea. I wonder what gives anyone that idea.