Sunday, February 17, 2013

- Thinking About The Papacy

I really enjoy Mike Potemra's writing on religion.

In the NRO Corner, it tends to come in the kind of serving sizes I most enjoy. I've read Augustine and Assisi, and I flatter myself into believing that I got something out of both of them that you don't get in comparative theology 101 (Christianity is bad) class your freshman year of college.

But I don't lead a very religious life. It's the nature of my work to give empiricism the final say on all things. So if the data doesn't demonstrate it, I've learned not to believe in it. Regrettably I think that's bled into some of the other areas of my life where faith is more important.

I don't doubt for a minute that the human condition is dominated by what can for all intents and purposes be described as 'permanent truths'. And I'm equally sure that the Catholic Church is one of mankind's many flawed attempts to access that. But flawed as it may be (being run by flawed and mortal men) I think it's fair to say that it's been a lot more successful effort than most.

It's an old organization. It has been around for a very long time, and as a result has some very old rules. Modern liberals dismiss it as an archaic and useless institution, but this is delusional. In truth the church's global influence has steady grown through my lifetime even if they have had trouble making inroads into the 'Women's Studies' and Sociology departments of America's universities.

Anyway, this post from Mike about the the nature of the papacy, I think can be very instructive. Oh, not to liberals who are seriously wondering if there is any chance of the next pope being in favor of gay marriage and abortion. (The number of thing they need to completely misunderstand even to ask the question is kind of mind boggling). But to those who take the church and it's goals for humanity seriously, and in the process have asked serious questions about the nature of the papacy and the conflict between his secular and religious power. Take this quote:

I remember thinking, at the time of the 2005 election, that because John Paul II had not paid much attention to administrative issues and to the vicious internecine struggles within the Vatican wasps’ nest, it would be a good idea for the next Pope to be an insider who could take a firm hand. Ratzinger had been a Vatican insider for a quarter-century, and many observers — especially conservatives, who viewed him as a kindred spirit – thought he’d fit the bill: The “Vatican crackdown” so beloved of lazy headline-writers would finally occur in reality, and not least within the Vatican itself. (Remember all the crowing about how “the cafeteria is closed”? Seems like quite a while ago, doesn’t it?) Others, including me, thought the new Pope would be rather too shy and bookish to throw his weight around in this way, and to make his decisions stick. <>


I agree with Bottum that the pontificate of Benedict XVI was a failure in some very significant ways, including some of the ones he mentions. But I view the matter from a rather different perspective: I think Ratzinger is not a Pope who failed and who should be faulted for that, but rather a man who was not cut out for the demands of the papacy, but accepted the job only because he thought it would be sinful to reject what appeared to be a calling from God.

It's tough to excerpt well so you really need to go read it. And if you really want to get the whole view, you need to also go read the Weekly Standard Article he mentions written by Jody Bottum.

I personally take a position closer to Mike's view. I've had some very limited dealings with the Vatican library years ago. And while there is obviously a deeply entrenched bureaucracy in the Vatican, I don't think it extends into the hearts of the Cardinals. I think the people that rise to that level of the modern church tend to be people who are fairly serious theological thinkers - even the weakest among them. They are not crafty politicians like those who rise to the top of secular governments. At least, it's not what defines them. My limited experience is that at the top of the church are people of genuine faith. they are not trying to fool anyone. they are in a word - true believers.

But if these articles are right, then maybe the church could do with someone who is a bit more skilled on the secular front.

1 comment:

ikaika said...

the recent Radio Derb brushed on who should be pope. What the outspoken liberals are want too foorget is that there is deep spirityual guidance in the college of cardinals more so now than ever before in history. A brief glance at the dark ages demonstrates the rise of the political papacy or an imperial papacy. the remaining "glue" in a rapidly fragmenting empire. I believe Vatican II (contrary to the orthodox) stressed the internal return to spirituality rather than polity. Pius XII was used as a scape goat - that was his cross to bear and he knew it. A re-exam of the collapse of Italy during WWII shows Pius lived up to his name. He was maligned as Hitler's Pope, when in truth he instructed the monastaries and churches to protect as many gypsies and jews as possible. Oscar Schindler gets a movie, Pius XII gets a rasberry.
Whomever the next pope is, it won't be a Borgia as the liberals really want. Nor will it be a Julius II.
If it is a Cardinal from Africa, the libs will at first applaud and then howl with disfavor as the Africans are more orthodox than the libs can handle.
Pax Vobiscum Pater Papelum