I was rather amused to read the comment of “Alexander VI”, following my blog about Sister Wendy Beckett and her interview with Kirsty Young on Desert island Discs before Christmas. He (or is it a she?) posted: “Francis, do you ever think about anything else other than sex?” Well – coming from someone who has taken the pseudonym “Alexander VI”, I think that’s a bit rich. After all, isn’t Alexander Borgia regarded as the worst of the early Renaissance popes? Did he not father the violent Cesare and the promiscuous Lucrezia among his other misdeeds? Whenever atheists of the ignorant kind want to attack us Catholics they always start with the Borgias – a byword for lust, greed, nepotism and murder.
As it happens, I’m prepared to stick up for Pope Alexander VI. I think all the above was simply clever propaganda put about by a cabal of nasty Italian cardinals who were jealous of the preferment of this upstart (and very able) Spaniard. But that’s another story, and it isn’t about sex, so I’d better stick to my remit. I’ll just check out some of my recent blogs to see if “Alexander VI” is correct in his/her jibe.
Before Christmas I blogged about Vladimir Putin’s call to Russian families “to have 3 children”; OK, this might seem to be about demography, but really it is all about sex. How can you have 3 children without it? Before that I blogged about the Holy Father blessing the unborn child of an Italian woman Olympian fencer; that’s ostensibly pro-life – but as you can’t separate sex and it’s life-giving properties, you could argue that blog was about sex too. Earlier in December I quoted a blogger called “Chalcedon451” who actually wrote, “If you want comfort, watch the TV, eat chocolate, take to sex, drugs and rock and roll… but don’t go near Christianity.” I take exception to the inclusion of chocolate in this list (I am eating a chocolate orange as I type this), but Chalcedon points out an incontrovertible fact: that people outside the Church are also interested in – er – sex.
Still earlier in December I blogged about the death of a fine priest, Fr John Edwards SJ. How can “Alexander VI” find sex in that? It’s easy, actually. As TS Eliot wisely wrote, life is all about “birth, copulation and death”, so if you write about one of this triad you are automatically dragging in the other two as well, even if subliminally.
Then I blogged about David Cameron’s determination to overthrow the common and ancient understanding of marriage; I hardly need to point out the link with sex here. Before that I blogged about a new anthology of essays written by Irish people and entitled “Catholicism and Me.” Everybody knows that the Irish are (or were) a very Catholic nation, so they must have been sexually repressed or sublimated or something – so again, you could argue, I was trying to slip in an allusion to “sex” here too. It would be tedious to mention yet more blogs, so let me just concede that “Alexander VI” (Borgia) is right: sex does come into everything.
Mind you, the BBC is as bad as me. I decided to watch a BBC2 programme earlier this week about Queen Victoria’s children. Having a very amateur interest in the subject I hoped to enlightened about, for instance, the Prince Consort’s punishing educational regime for Bertie ( a lively and intelligent boy, if not as academic as his older sister, Vickie.) I thought we might learn about the personality of Lady Lyttelton, the royal governess, a highly educated woman and mother to a classical scholar, the 4th Lord Lyttelton; or that we might hear about the childhood ailments of Prince Leopold, intellectually gifted like his father, but afflicted with haemophilia. Actually the programme was very disappointing: cohorts of eminent historians and royal biographers were wheeled in to emphasise one thing only: Queen Victoria’s interest in – er – sex. We were treated to repeated and prurient references to her and the Prince Consort’s intimate life, as if that was all the audience wanted to hear about and as if that was the only item of interest. Well – that’s BBC 2 for you. I think there might be more variety on the Catholic Herald blog site.