Rolling Stones jokes tempt me, but I will try to be strong.
This is the Catholic version of respect for the dead. To me, it seems like an incentive to be a really bad Catholic.
Carnie sideshow: the bizarre Catholic tradition that won’t die out:
Once upon a time there was a roaring trade in Christian relics: bits of bones and chopped up mummified body parts and scraps of clothing of purported saints did the rounds in Europe. Many were sold for enormous amounts of money, some became treasured property of local royal families, many became the focus of lucrative pilgrimages for religious centers that housed these relics. Almost all of the relics were endowed with dubious miraculous powers ranging from healing ailments to more spiritual rewards. Certainly, the financial rewards for hosting the body parts was substantial and demand for them was always at a premium. As Andrew Butterfield notes in his New Republic article What Remains:I cannot understand why the religious choose to fill their attic with so much nonsense.
Such was the desire for the miracle-working bodies of saints that occasionally guards had to watch over mortally ill holy men and women to prevent the unauthorized dismemberment of their corpses as soon as they died.You’d probably think, well, that was fine for the Late Medieval era. That was then, but Christianity has moved on. People are far more educated these days. Even the most fundamentalist Christians are far removed from the grisly superstitions of the past. Right?
Well, no. The Church after much careful consideration and introspection has decided to straddle rank superstitious hocus pokery and modern rationality at the same time. In a masterful display of the seemingly impossible, they have decided to have their cake and eat it at the same time. As a result the exhumed corpse of Padre Pio (he of the verified-by-Church-Investigators-but-not-scientists stigmata fame) is leaving his home village of San Giovanni Rotondo going on a tour around Italy. He isn’t the first dead body on tour, and he probably (depressingly) won’t be the last.