The Pussy Riot trial and aftermath should flummox Cold/Culture warriors in perpetuity: should but won’t I mean c’mon we weren’t born yesterday! Very early in the Cold War the soon- to-be sainted U.S. Catholic Bishop Fulton J. Sheen dubbed the Soviet Union ‘The Mystical Body of Satan.” Now the Russian Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia condemns Pussy Riot for, what else, “doing the work of Satan.” But wait, isn’t he the same asset reportedly code-named ‘Mikhailov’ by KGB pals back in the bad old days of “godless communism?” And everybody knows Vlad Putin’s story: meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
So Russia remains in the clutches of ruthless, authoritarian, human rights denying despots, but none dare call them godless! Two years in a Russian prison surely beats a lifetime in Siberia, or worse, but a “reasonable” sentence for punk-rocker/moms (two of three the latter) in a re-emergent Christian nation? Can this be the outcome Fulton Sheen envisioned in the early 50s, as he led millions of Americans in fevered prayers for the conversion of Russia?
On his top-rated TV show “Life is Worth Living,’ Sheen spun bizarrely embroidered yarns of a communist plot to assassinate Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli—the future Pope Pius X11—in Munich way back in 1923, when Pacelli was the papal nuncio to Germany and the tide of Marxian not National socialism was the Vatican’s greatest dread.
Sheen’s extravagantly theatrical, nationally televised performance of this Cold War fable climaxed with the Bishop whipping a miraculous medal from the chain around his neck, the very same medal that caught the bullet intended for Pacelli’s heart! Unfired bullet, from a non-existent gun, that is, as Sheen himself might later have acknowledged in a more chastened era: even the priest-promoter running Pius XII’s campaign for canonization now readily concedes the Munich assassination-attempt story is ‘imaginary.’ But was Russia converted? Conversion for what?
I have good story instincts but no chops for logic: none. There should be a prize awarded to first author who can make orderly political-historic sense of the Pussy Riot case WITHOUT resorting to Cold War/culture war, pious bromides emanating from Left, Right, or the car wash beneath Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, above which Pussy Riot beseeched the Virgin Mary–in heavily salted vernacular–to free their people from the vise-grip of tyranny. File it under ‘theology, liberation.’
And because we like our history with all wrinkles intact, consider too that “Uncle Fulty” Sheen found himself exiled to a bishopric in Rochester, NY in the late 60s (SEE: his bitter enmity with the far-less beloved “American Pope,” Francis Cardinal Spellman). Though a terrible time for Sheen personally, this late chapter saw him re-born as an ardent champion of the Second Vatican Council’s reforms, an advocate of civil rights for African-Americans, and an opponent of the U.S. war in Vietnam, all of which ensure that in sainthood Sheen too will bedevil culture warriors.
History! You can run but you can’t hide.
The Ramones made great rock and roll that kicked out the jams that jammed kids up in cultural and tribal ghettoes: that’s what the music was created for! So today we picture the Ramones–living and (mostly) deceased including Johnny, who was raised to think like Sheen the Cold Warrior and did but played guitar like a Queens Blvd. banshee, to Joey, who wasn’t, and didn’t–firing this punk rocket to Russia, surely emblazoned Free Pussy Riot!