Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Some things just never change

Personally, I took the word that Pope Benedict XVI would be stepping down from his post as Archbishop of Rome and spiritual leader of Catholics around the world as a positive.
BENEDICT: The first retired pope in centuries

The man’s 85. It’s not shocking that he’s not as spry as he once was. His admission that he’s not physically able to cope with the demands of the job struck me as such an honest one – something I wish more people in many walks of life were capable of doing.

HECK, I REMEMBER back to 1999 when I saw the previous pope, John Paul II, in St. Louis. The rituals were rigidly scripted – which was a good thing because the one-time Karol Wojtyla wasn’t physically capable of improvising anything.

Perhaps he’d have been better off cutting his papacy short a few years prior to his 2004 death – which was the last time we saw the process of the cardinals converging on the Vatican to pick a new pope.

But all of this is going to result in the speculation about whom the new pope will be. I’ve already stumbled across the reports based on guesswork and wishful thinking about the chances that the new pope will be someone born in an African nation, or perhaps somewhere in Asia.

After all, the Catholic Church is growing in those places. Perhaps the new pope shouldn’t be so blatantly European.

ALTHOUGH CONSIDERING THAT it took until the late 1970s to get over the idea that the Pope ought to be Italian, this isn’t exactly an institution that worries about change.

Already I have stumbled across reader commentary on the Internet calling the idea of a non-white pope an abomination and something that will scare off “’real” Catholics from the church.

I even saw one comment claiming sarcastically that a “black” pope would be appropriate because the modern-day Catholic church has already evolved into an institution with people singing and swaying in the pews just as much as any Baptist church.

Not that all the Internet bigotry is racial. I’ve also seen some people who try to criticize the current pope as “dirty Jews.”

CONSIDERING THAT THE Benedict life story includes superficial evidence that he came from a Nazi-sympathizing family (he was a boy during 1940s-era Germany, although it seems his Catholicism helped him cope with that era’s monstrosities), it seems like a particularly inappropriate way to try to defend his reputation.

It just seems that some people are determined to hold onto the vestiges of anti-Catholic bigotry that we’d like to think are long past. Then again, I have to admit there probably is an element of truth to the idea that even within the Catholic Church, there are strains of intolerance to the idea of change.

It actually reminds me of a report I once saw about the growth of the Catholic Church in this country being largely due to increased numbers of Latinos living here. I still remember the sight of a white woman in Missouri who said her parish had become two separate factions – the “Catholic” church and the “Spanish” church.

AS THOUGH IT is the white Catholics who are somehow legitimate! A part of me wants to think an African pope – if it becomes reality – would serve them right. Preaching morality while spewing immoral rhetoric.

I’m not about to predict a new pope. Anybody who says they know who’s going to get the title is lying. I’m just realistic enough to know that the nasty rhetoric I’m already reading is going to increase in coming weeks – which is truly despicable.

It’s probably not a religious thing at all. Some people just want to isolate everyone else away from themselves – which strikes me as being about as un-Christian a concept that exists.


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