10 The Love/Hate Bond between the Popes and Rock - John L. Allen Jr.

posted Mar 6, 2019, 8:59 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 6, 2019, 8:59 AM ]
When Pope Francis took a shot at the bands Queen and Florence & The Machine in his annual Lenten message this year, it was merely the latest chapter in a love/hate story between Popes and rock-and-roll.

Since the birth of rock in the late 1940s, Popes have run alternately hot and cold about it; sometimes deriding rock as a "vehicle of anti-religion," while at other times hailing its potential to be a sort of pre-gospel, offering what St Justin, a martyr in the second century, would have called Logos Spermatiko, or 'Seeds of the Word'. From the beginning, there's been an assumption of animus between Popes and rock, given that rock-and-roll incarnates the rejection of tradition and authority—two things of which the Popes generally serve as the world's pre-eminent representative.

So strong was the presumption of mutual dislike that when The Beatles released their ballad "Fool on the Hill" in 1967, a track from the film 'Magical Mystery Tour', many critics took it as a mocking reference to Pope Paul VI, now St Paul VI.

The relevant lyrics were:

Day after day, alone on a hill

The man with the foolish grin is sitting perfectly still

Nobody wants to know him

They can see that he's just a fool

But he never gives an answer