Daily Archives: January 30, 2023

The Fat Man, The Kindling, And the Dominican

It was a sunny day, in Rome.

I was in Campo de’ Fiori, as I immediately recognised from the surrounding buildings.

The day was cold and crisp, but not overly unpleasant. A sunny, winterly January morning like many in those parts.

There was a crowd in front and below me. Hundreds of people. Perhaps a couple of thousands, it was difficult to say.

I was standing on a wooden stage. I was dressed in a black suit, helped by a dark blue, thick coat, with black leather gloves. It was not immediately clear to me why I was there.

Near me, on the wooden stage, was a man. He was wearing the traditional habit of the Dominicans. He had the facial traits of Dominic Garrigou-Lagrange, but I knew he was not him. He was thin, tall, lanky but quite severe. His face told me that something very solemn was about to happen. It was clear it was something to do with the One True Faith.

The wooden stage was dominated by a tall pole. The pole was surrounded by kindling, perhaps one feet tall. More kindling was standing behind.

The multitude of people suddenly began to open as a vehicle was slowly advancing, opening its way two feet at a time as people slowly parted.

I remember the silence. There was a truly eerie silence. Untypical, I thought. You don’t get to have two thousand Romans in silence in the same place, unless something very, very serious is happening.

The vehicle was a blue Renault Kangoo. The registration number showed the letters “SCV”. In big lettering, on the sides, the writing “GENDARMERIA”. This was clearly a vehicle of the Gendarmeria Vaticana.

The vehicle slowly opened his way, in the absolute silence, to the stage, and stopped just in front of it. Three elegantly dressed Gendarmi, in blue uniforms and hats, went out. They helped get out (or rather, extracted, as the man seemed to oppose resistance; though it was difficult to say from my vantage point) a big, old, corpulent man. The man was unable to walk independently, and kept asking for a wheelchair. I heard a Gendarme telling him “only if we have to tease you”, as another one was saying “be smart: collaborate and everything will be over soon. Make resistance and it will get painful”. Helping himself with a crutch and the Gendarmi, the man slowly advanced towards the steps that lead on the stage.

He was Spaniard, or at least he spoke Spanish. His face was very familiar, but I could not recognise to whom it belonged. By now, he was swearing in the most frightful way, screaming and spitting around (but not to the Gendarmi). Some of the swear words I could recognise as similar to Italian ones, others I could not understand, but the man’s attitude made very clear what their meaning was.

A TV crew was standing on another stage, the other side of the square. The words “RAI 1”, in white on a blue background, were impossible to oversee. A man with a microphone and three cameramen with their big cameras were seen in the distance. I knew, at that moment, that something historical was about to happen.

The screaming of the old, fat man was becoming deafening. Mad with hate, he was literally spitting saliva and hate around. I wondered how he would not lose his voice. The men in uniform were telling him to stay calm, but he was not listening. It was as if he wanted to hate as much as he could, for as long as he could. At some point, mad with rage, he turned towards one of his helpers and gave him a huge, fat spit on the face. A massive police baton immediately landed on his nose. There was a moaning noise, then silence. Total silence.

“Adesso i gendarmi si preparano ad aiutarlo a salire sul palco”, I faintly heard the solemn, slow voice on the other side of the square saying. It was the kind of voice I remembered hearing on occasions like the funeral of prominent Mafia victims. Clearly, the RAI wanted to be at its best.

The man was helped on top of the stage. He was so very fat it surprised me how he could even walk, however badly. He was directed to the pole and made to stand there. He made a gesture as if to spit. The Gendarme he had spit in the face rapidly raised his baton, as if to say “there’s more of it, if you liked it”. The old man did nothing.

A small, well-rounded, peaceful-looking priest approached the man with a book and a crucifix. He was hesitant, as if he was about to try again what had miserably failed just a short time before. As he approached the man, he was spat in the face with a prowess that showed great exercise and a proficiency learned during many years of practice. The small, well-rounded priest raised his arms to the sky as if to say to the crowd: “I have tried!”; then made the sign of the cross, and a gesture to some people below (I could not see whom) before hurriedly leaving the scene.

Three big, burly men, dressed in working suits like the ones of construction workers, rapidly jumped to the stage. They took the man from the Gendarmi, brought him just in front of the pole, and started to bound him to it with thick ropes. As soon as the man was taken away from the menace of the baton, he started screaming again, insulting everybody in the square and spitting around, but targeting none of the men around him as he clearly understood what would happen next.

The workers rapidly put the remaining kindling around the man, who was tied to the pole over a wooden base of around 1 feet high, clearly to offer better visibility to the crowd. When they had finished, the kindling was covering his feet. At this point, they wetted the kindling with abundant water and even more abundant fuel. It was clear that they wanted to have a rapidly expanding fire, and a lot of smoke.

I still did not know why I was there.

The men quickly left the stage and other three men went up, carrying plastic containers. They were thin men belonging to a manual profession. They opened their containers and began to spread vast quantities of a sort of asphalt or tarmac all over the man – still screaming insults like a possessed witch on a bad day – leaving only his face not smirched. I suddenly understood that the dark material was pitch. More kindling – of a thinner sort – was spread all around him by the pitch guys, expertly applying it so that it would stick to the pitch in abundant quantity. Then they sprinkled generously a clearly very flammable substance over the whole bundle of fat man (still screaming), clothes, pitch, and kindle. At that point, I knew what was about to happen, and all became clear.

Campo de’ Fiori.


Giordano Bruno.

The grave Dominican guy made a gesture towards me. I did not understand, so he did it again, this time awaiting for a sign of assent. At that point, I understood that he was silently asking: “All is ready. Are you?”. I nodded “yes”, and another uniformed Gendarme went up to the stage and walked towards me with a big, flaming torch. I took the torch in my hand. It was heavy, and it was emitting a vast amount of flames. I remember thinking they should have chosen a man with a stronger and, most of all, longer arm.

The Garrigou-Lagrange-type guy made another solemn nodding, of the type that said “it’s time now…”. Then I knew what was expected of me.

The total silence was only broken by the savage screaming of the fat man. Noticing his limited neck mobility, I decided to plan an approach from the side in order to avoid drowning in his spit. Aware of all those eyes fixed on me, of the cameras running, and of the journalist – speaking very softly, and inaudibly to me, what must have been carefully chosen words – I advanced towards the fat guy with a slow, solemn pace and, once arrived at a suitable distance, lowered the heavy torch and caused it to get in contact with the kindle as slowly as my poor arm allowed.

I was surprised at what happened next. Big flames rapidly developed amidst the “ahhs” and “ohhs” of the crowd, as a prodigious amount of smoke rapidly engulfed the fat man. His by now hysterically loud screaming had become a horribly raging, but clearly panicked sound. The man was now completely hidden from sight as the smoke rose thick and fast. His screaming became fainter, then fainter still, then ceased altogether.

He must have died in thirty seconds, top. Silently, I prayed that those last seconds were, by God’s grace, enough for perfect contrition.

When the flames started to rise, still visible amid the smoke cloud, and were about to start burning the corpse of the fat man, a majestic, solemn thunder broke the air.

It was the Dominican guy.

As the flames were rising, the man – endowed with an enormously deep, manly, charismatic voice – spoke beautiful, powerful words. He was strong but charitable, severe but passionate, implacable but saddened. I don’t remember his words, but they were so touching, that I discovered myself, as many among the crowd, silently crying as I drank every word. I said to myself “have mercy on me, Lord, a sinner; and on all of us …”

… and then I woke up.

I immediately recognised the guy.

I wondered how I could not recognise him during the dream, and whether you can stick kindling to a man with pitch, and how can the Vatican State be allowed to run an execution in the territory of the Republic, and how you can have such exercises in this day and age.

But it was just that.

A dream.

Pope About To Be Catechised

“Always these obnoxious people with their Catholicism!”

High time, you will say. I will agree.

It’s never too late, either. Even in his Mid-Eighties, the man might be forced to acknowledge some simple truths that he tried to escape all his life.

The occasion? His planned visit to South Sudan.

South Sudan criminalises homosexual acts, including so-called same sex marriage. Of course, so-called same sex marriage has the acts of sodomy built-in. It should, therefore, be punished as a criminal offence rather than simply not be recognised. It’s all very simple.

Now, when Francis flies down there, he will have to make a decision: if he recognises that the Government of South Sudan is merely punishing acts of sodomy, he will have to realise that this is in line with Catholic tradition and say so, because journos will likely ask. If he, however, states that such acts of criminalisation of sodomy are acts of criminalising homosexuality, he will ipso facto admit that he is at variance with Catholic faith and tradition.

I think the Government of South Sudan very well realised that the latter is the case. Therefore, they give him fair warning and very obviously state that they are willing and ready to teach the guy a thing or two.

I’d love to see Francis corrected openly and frankly by a Government. It would be another important signal, all over the world, that truth can’t change and two plus two remains four no matter how bad your math teacher is.

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