The newly crowned Pope Francis was recently misquoted by the press as warning that tarot readers can’t save you. This is not what he actually said, but this misquotation has been repeated in the media. A typical misleading headline, like the one in the CatholicHerald.co.uk, reads:
“Tarot readers and fortune tellers cannot save you, says Pope Francis” by Madeleine Teahan, Friday, 5 April 2013
Fortunately, the article tells us what the Pope actually said (reproduced here in bold):
Preaching at morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae in Rome today, Pope Francis said: “In order to solve their problems many people resort to fortune tellers and tarot cards. But only Jesus saves, and we must bear witness to this! He is the only one.”
“Mary always leads us to Jesus, as she did at Cana when she said: ‘Do whatever he tells you’. Let us trust in the name of Jesus, let us invoke the name of Jesus, and let the Holy Spirit push us to say this prayer trusting in the name of Jesus … it will do us all good.”
Pope Francis said that many people resort to fortune tellers and tarot cards to solve their problems, but only Jesus saves. This is the pope’s belief system. Although he cites fortune tellers, he never mentions tarot readers per se. The pope does say that people use tarot cards to solve their problems. He adds that in his religious view only Jesus saves. This is a non-issue. Since tarot readers are not fortune tellers and don’t offer salvation, the pope has no bone to pick with tarot practitioners. Who in their right mind would seek salvation from a deck of cards?
When the pope had to get from Argentina to Rome, he resorted to an airline pilot to solve his problem; Jesus did not fly him there. People resort to psychotherapists, physicians, lawyers, plumbers, electricians, financial planners, etc., to solve their problems, but only Jesus saves. Who would seek salvation from an attorney or a plumber or an airline pilot? You’d have to be crazy to do that. I left carpenters out of the list because Jesus was a carpenter. I also omitted surgeons because they believe they can save everyone.
James Wells, a respected tarot practitioner, responds to the pope’s comments in his blog at http://jameswells.wordpress.com/ Wells points out tarot readers do not offer salvation and that Pope John Paul II had a copy of Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey Into Christian Hermeticism and approved of its contents. The press has distorted the message of Pope Francis to stir up controversy.
Unfortunately, this pope appears to be ignorant of the tarot and seems never to have studied the subject. He is making pronouncements based on his biases rather than any genuine knowledge of what he is talking about. Let us not forget that the Pope card reversed in a reading suggests a need to confront one’s intolerance and bigotry about a matter.
I would be happy to give Pope Francis a crash course in tarot when I visit Rome this spring. Reading tarot cards is analogous to reading literature, myth, biblical stories and fairy tales. The tarot contains the same kind of “truth” that we find in myth and great literature, not the “truth” of fundamentalist bigotry that condemned Galileo to house arrest for using his god-given intelligence to observe the universe. I believe it was Albert Einstein who said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
Pope Francis does urge the faithful to follow the advice of Mary and do whatever Jesus tells us to do. Taking the Pope at his word, I assume that he agrees with Jesus’ instructions in the New Testament:
“And if your right hand causes you to offend, cut it off, and cast it from you: for it is better for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body should be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:30)
I hope that adolescent boys who commit the sin of Onan are paying attention to Pope Francis’ sermon. Rather than consult their tarot decks, these young lads should go straight to their medicine cabinets, find a fresh razor blade, cut off their offending organs and cast them in the trash. Such is the way to salvation!