Thursday, May 08, 2008

Of pigeons and the Pope ...

OK, here are your options: I can tell you about the steamy pigeon sex romp which -- according to John -- has been going on in our neighbours' walnut tree all afternoon .... Or I give you some depressing info on the minor scandal that has been surrounding the presidential elections at the Catholic University of Eichstätt for months.


Since this is before the watershed (just), I reckon it'll have to be Eichstätt. Now, this is a very special place: a largely state-funded university where academic appointments literally have to be confirmed by the Pope. That's what being a Catholic university is all about - you have intimate ties with God's earthly ambassador (and possibly a handful of reserved places in the afterlife - indulgences pending).

However, being a public institution (three fourths of its budget come from the Free State of Bavaria) the university has to go through the protracted rigmarole of the German academic hiring system (the details of which I will spare you).

Suffice it to say that Eichstätt seriously wanted Prof. Dr. Dr. Ulrich Hemel, a theologian (In fact, according to Der Spiegel, a "brilliant theologian") with an impressive academic CV and a business career, as its new president. The university council voted 12 to 4 in his favour earlier in the year.

The rub: he's been married three times. And: he's been openly critical of Pope Benedict.

After weeks of waiting for an epiphany, we now know what's what: Hemel will not become president of the university, as the Vatican deems him unfit for the job. Why? Here, both the bishop of Eichstätt, whose task it would have been to appoint Hemel, and the Vatican, remain curiously mum. There are obscure mutterings of "breaches of trust" regarding Hemel's statements to the press over the past weeks. The rest is silence.

Now, what would our friend Jürgen H. -- much beloved and hotly discussed at this blog -- say about that? Not exactly communicative, eh? Not exactly ... er, transparent, tolerant and all that. Not exactly academic liberties, is it? But then: reality has never been a great concern of yours, has it?

Anyway, here's my plea: Hemel for president. And if Benedict won't agree to this democratically taken decision, maybe Cthulhu will.

PS: As I was sitting here writing about pigeon sex -- intercourse the pigeon! -- John forced The Greatful Dead upon me, as is his wont. But I'm grateful (note the pun, ha, ha), as it has drawn my attention to the fact that "Truckin'" is essentially "The Ballad of John and Yoko."

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