The Catholic Church is in deep trouble with its priests’ sex scandals. It appears some church authorities tried to cover up clergy pedophilia to protect the church’s reputation, and the cover-up has reached the highest ranks of the Catholic Church. Which begs the question…why does the Church have this problem to begin with? How did this happen? Protestant churches have their share of sex scandals, but these usually involve pastors cheating on their wives, not molesting children.
The Tarot actually has something to say about the Catholic Church’s problem with sex. The Tarot of Marseilles is one of the oldest versions of the tarot, and it existed from at least the fifteenth century when the Catholic Church was both an overwhelming political and religious power. The imagery on the tarot clearly reflected their times, which included the Catholic world.
The Tarot of Marseilles’ viewpoint of the church is quite heretical. And it appears to have an opinion about sex and the Catholic Church. This is apparent from the infamous card number 2, the female Pope. Later versions of the tarot removed explicit Catholic imagery and transformed the Popess into the High Priestess. This is an appropriate reworking of the essence of the card’s meaning; the Popess/High Priestess represents alternative, nontraditional spirituality.
What does a tarot card about a female Pope suggest? It would be considered sacrilege, blasphemy, and heresy, anti-God. And exactly why is the idea of a female pope (or priest) so awful? That is a good question. I can’t think of a good reason. Sort of like the logic behind denying women the right to vote a century ago. What were they thinking back then?
Lining up the first six cards of the tarot in numerical order, we notice something interesting. Watch the eyes of the characters in the cards. Who is looking at whom? Compare card #1, the Juggler and card #2, the Lady Pope. The female Pope is looking intently, directly at the Juggler, who seems preoccupied at playing with his juggling. She is offering her Juggler the book she holds, the key to knowledge. Instead of learning to juggle, learn to read, and begin the journey towards enlightenment.
The next two cards are the Empress and the Emperor. The Empress gives a sly glance at the Emperor, but the Emperor’s full attention is directly focused on his Empress. This is the path of life, woman and man, wife and husband, the reason for our existence…the continuation of the human species. It is the natural order and cannot be denied.
The following two cards are card #5 the Pope, and card #6 the Lovers. Now this is an odd pair. The Pope is looking directly at the Lovers card, not at the pair of cardinals before him. What is up with that? I’d suggest that a celibate priesthood’s internal, subconscious focus would be on that which they don’t have…love, sex, and a relationship. The medieval Pope was the master of the Western world, above all kings and queens. But without love, what did it matter? The Pope gazes longingly at that which even he is denied. Or was he really denied? Hmmm.
This might explain something of the Catholic Church’s problem. Is it a surprise an institution that requires a celibate priesthood would have priests with sexual issues? Has any institution that denied human nature done so without consequences?
If we place the Popess and the Pope side by side, what do we see? One thing is obvious; they are NOT looking at each other, but are determinedly looking away from each other. They are not on the same page. The Popess is reading a book, and being an outcast her knowledge is self-learned. She does not depend on other’s interpretation of scripture, but decides for herself. She exists outside the traditional religious power structure. The Pope in the card is telling his bishops kneeling before him what to think. Maybe what the Catholic Church needs is a woman’s touch, with women sharing leadership. We need a woman pope. Life requires balance, and the Church is unbalanced. A female Pope is the Tarot’s answer to the church’s problems.