Thursday, 8 August 2013

Even The Pope Isn’t Infallible

Cerebus #94 (January 1987)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Note From The President, Cerebus #99, June 1987)

Two points in the fan press we'd like to cover. The first is Heidi MacDonald's assertion in a not-so-recent overview of Cerebus informing me that "even the Pope isn’t infallible, Dave". I take exception to this because it is one of the central themes of Church & State and I hate to see it dismissed so offhandedly I don’t think the Pope is infallible. I infer from her words that Heidi doesn't think the Pope is infallible. But the fact remains that the Catholic Church is, in large measure, founded on the notion that he is. Millions of people believe it. As a good Catholic, John-Paul must believe it. Does that make it true? Depends on whether you believe it or not, doesn’t it? Or does it? That’s the central question, here. 

The second is Robert Ingersoll (a decidedly colourless Cleveland public defender - my impression from our only meeting two years ago - as well as columnist for the CBG) and his tantrum over the rape scene in #94 (or the "rape" scene depending on your viewpoint). In good lawyerly fashion, he pontificates (!) that in #95 Cerebus should be "thrown in jail" for the crime committed in#94. My question would be "by whom?" And this was the point (related to my quarrel with Heidi above) I was attempting to address. Ingersoll, incapable of appreciating subtle points of morality wrapped as he is in the security blanket of jurisprudence missed this one by a good dozen yards. Who is going to throw the Pope in jail? In all the media coverage of Jessica Hahn and Jim Bakker, much is made of their "liason" and their "tryst", his "indiscretion". No one seemed to be listening to Miss Hahn who said she was an "admirer" of Bakker; a good Christian; that she had no thought or intention of having sex with him in that hotel room. Isn’t that rape? Is there not some legal principle that needs to be devised for this situation? When JFK was pushing ladies into anterooms and hiking up their skirts for a quick one is it not possible that he would say (avec boyish grin) "As your commander-in-chief I command you to stop struggling". Would a woman who didn’t stop struggling have been guilty of treason?

I believe Cerebus raped Astoria. A number of Cerebus fans don't think so, venturing the opinion "she was asking for it". Are they wrong? It depends on your point of view. I don’t think there is such a thing as "asking for it" (unless she literally "asks for it" verbally). Cerebus changed the terms under which she was offering her "favour" (one of which was a gag to preclude any dissension). That is rape (to me). As I say a number of readers disagree. Kind of scary. 

When federal laws governing sexual crimes were being revised in Canada during Trudeau's last term in office, then-Justice Minister Jean Chretien (a man I otherwise admire a great deal) in discussing rape ventured the opinion that if a woman agreed to have sex with a number of men (say the front-line of a football team), she could not have a member of that team charged with rape if she had not wanted to have sex with him particularly. I find that attitude reprehensible. If a woman wants to have sex with the entire American League East Division with the exception of Jesse Barfield and Mr. Barfield won't take no for an answer, Mr. Barfield should be charged with forcible rape. 

It's also odd to me that none of the Aardvark Comments regarding the rape (or "rape") in #94 have been from female readers. 

Opinions, ladies?


Anonymous said...

I remember being annoyed by the two errors in this "Note From the President" at the time of the issue's publication. The Catholic Church is not founded in large measure on the idea of papal infallibility. That didn't even come up until medieval times. And Jean Chretien's point was actually sensible: if a woman says, "I'll fuck everyone on the team," she can't say, "I didn't specifically consent to sex with team member Joe Blow," as the basis for a rape charge. Still, as Dave said, the reaction of some readers was "Kind of scary."

-- Damian T. Lloyd

Anonymous said...

"Opinions, ladies?"

Yeah I remember that one... and the boatload of mail Dave got afterwards.

Dom said...

Yes, Papal infallibility is a far more limited concept than Dave seems to realize here. On the football team thing, though, I think Dave's point might habe been that, if team member X comes up for his turn in the line and she says, "no, not you," and he proceeds anwyay, that's rape. With no articulated intent other than "I'll fuck the whole team," different story.

Ray Cornwall said...

I admit- when Dave said in a later interview that Astoria and Suentus Poe died in the second Ascension, I..was really conflicted. Her final scene was a great final scene, but then you realize that it really was the *final* scene.