Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


What would Gregory XII have done?
April 22, 2014 10:06 AM   Subscribe

What’s it like for the first living ex-pope in 600 years to watch from up close as the successor he enabled dismantles his legacy?
posted by Chrysostom (100 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
He should throw his support behind Pope Michael and create a whole boatload of new cardinals, then call a Council and get all up in Francis's business.
posted by Naberius at 10:22 AM on April 22 [2 favorites]


"I'm not crazy about some of the things the new guy's up to, but hey—we're none of us infallible."
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:26 AM on April 22 [18 favorites]


This is an embarrassingly bad article from a journalistic standpoint. The only conservative voices are a secondhand quote from Cardinal Burke and a not even secondhand gossip story about an unnamed vaticanisti journalist. Meanwhile there is an interview with Cardinal Kasper.
posted by Jahaza at 10:39 AM on April 22 [5 favorites]


Benedict: “Now I am a claustrato”—a cloistered one.

Gänswein: “You’re an autoclaustrato.”

Francis: “But you can go out if you want to.”
How magnanimous.
posted by Flunkie at 10:40 AM on April 22


Weird. Pope Benedict should get mad props for deciding to step down and aside when he did, not this kind of ghoulish voyeuristic twittering. Pope Francisco is the Pope the church needs today; Pope Benedict was wise enough to see that he wasn't.
posted by chavenet at 10:47 AM on April 22 [28 favorites]


N.B. This piece contains practically 0 research or reporting, apart from thirdhand rumors, and is mainly the author's musing and supposition.
posted by radicalawyer at 10:47 AM on April 22 [15 favorites]


How magnanimous.

That seems like an unfair reading. I take that more as Francis reminding Benedict that his seclusion is at his own choice, he can go out whenever he is up for it.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:48 AM on April 22 [6 favorites]


The religion press criticism blog Get Religion weighs in on the (de)merits of the Atlantic article.
posted by Jahaza at 10:51 AM on April 22 [3 favorites]


to watch from up close as the successor he enabled dismantles his legacy?

I guess he's a lot more like Christ than folks give him credit then.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:51 AM on April 22 [21 favorites]


I know, Chrysostom. I was mostly being tongue in cheek. When it comes down to it, though, what you've got there is an absolute monarch telling a person under his jurisdiction what he can do.
posted by Flunkie at 10:53 AM on April 22


SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY!

IT'S POPEMANIA XIV! WATCH THEM GO HEAD TO HEAD IN THEIR NITRO-POWERED POPEMOBILES!

SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY!
posted by blue_beetle at 11:01 AM on April 22 [21 favorites]


I find the way Benedict is cast as sort of a cartoon villain frustrating. I agree with him on very little, but I don't feel the need to say "I was right and you were wrong! Ha ha ha!", particularly when I'm not sure we know yet what lasting impact Francis will have on the course of the Church. (Though certainly my dad had never before mentioned to me something the pope had said. That conversation was the most enthused about Catholicism I'd ever seen my dad, who was on the parish council when I was a kid.)

I find Benedict intensely interesting precisely because he made this turn or the conservative after 1968 and part of me wants to understand what drove that. Why didn't Hans Küng or whoever else make the same turn?
posted by hoyland at 11:02 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]


"WATCH THEM GO CAPO A CAPO IN THEIR PIOUS OBSERVATION OF THE SABBATH!"
posted by zippy at 11:03 AM on April 22 [10 favorites]


Pope Benedict should get mad props for deciding to step down and aside when he did, not this kind of ghoulish voyeuristic twittering. Pope Francisco is the Pope the church needs today; Pope Benedict was wise enough to see that he wasn't.

I think Benedict realized, after he'd got to the top of his mountain and looked around for a little while, that he just didn't like the job. He acquired virtually no new power, took on a whole mess of new responsibilities that were very much not things he liked doing or was particularly good at (certainly not as good as his predecessor or successor), and was already aware that he was either trying to hold back the tide a la Canute or presiding over a continuing decline in his church. If there were even slightly more precedent for a Pope resigning, I think Benedict would have pulled the eject lever after two or three years instead of making it through eight.

But yes, what he did took a lot of personal courage. The Roman Catholic church would be better off today if more of Benedict's predecessors had been willing to resign rather than dodder their way through another few years just because no one had done it in a while.
posted by Etrigan at 11:05 AM on April 22 [7 favorites]


Years ago I bought a book (based on the title) by then-Cardinal Ratzinger and a great deal of it was way over my head. He's an academic at heart, and probably would have been just as happy to leave it all alone and teach or write. By all accounts, he wasn't exactly thrilled to get the job but had been more or less running things anyway during JPII's last years.

So he accepted the job, did it for a bit and as noted above, had the temerity to see that someone else would be better suited to the job. One thing that I think the article got right is that Benedict's retirement opens the door now for others to do the same in the future, that no one need worry about accepting the election that turns into a gig for life.
posted by jquinby at 11:09 AM on April 22 [5 favorites]


It's a shame, because I have been really wondering how the former Pope feels about all this, and hoping for an article that addressed it. I wonder if the writer was handed this assignment and then quickly realized he'd never be able to get access to anybody who can answer that question, so he just winged it instead.

(Also, I was most persuaded by the suggestion that Benedict saw his predecessor mentally decline but just keep hanging on, and thought "ya know, this whole Pope-for-life thing was invented back before modern medicine...")
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:09 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]


"WE'LL SELL YOU THE WHOLE PEW BUT YOU'LL ONLY NEED THE KNEELER!

Indulgence not included with sale."
posted by thecaddy at 11:18 AM on April 22 [19 favorites]


I dunno, maybe you have to be Catholic to get it, but I just didn't feel the whole hateful-piling-on-Benedict in the Atlantic piece that others seem to be. I read it as a portrait of an elderly retired man in an unusual and uncomfortable position as the organization he used to run carries on literally around him in a seemingly radically different manner.

No, it's not hard-hitting journalism, but I don't think it claimed to be.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:18 AM on April 22 [2 favorites]


Meant to add - I'm not sure it would have been much different if he the same author had been talking about presidents of a university, except for scale, scope, and precedent.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:19 AM on April 22


It's a shame, because I have been really wondering how the former Pope feels about all this, and hoping for an article that addressed it.

I'm pretty sure that interview is never going to happen.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:20 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]


Benedict: “Now I am a claustrato”

What? Surely the Vatican could rustle up some decent countertenors.

Oh, wait.
posted by yoink at 11:22 AM on April 22 [15 favorites]


Benedict: “Now I am a claustrato”

What? Surely the Vatican could rustle up some decent countertenors.

Oh, wait.


Are they the ones who sing the soprano descant to "Here Comes Santa Claus?"
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:24 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]


Benedict: “Now I am a claustrato”—a cloistered one.

Gänswein: “You’re an autoclaustrato.”

Francis: “But you can go out if you want to.”


I have this strange techno version of this going through my head now and I can't get it out. "I'm an auto/claustrato/I go out if I want to" (repeat forever until I'm insane)
posted by jason_steakums at 11:38 AM on April 22 [10 favorites]


I realize that titles and lead paragraphs are designed for clickbait, but after reading the article I'm still baffled by why the person at the Atlantic included the bit about Francis dismantling Ratzinger's legacy.

Yes, personality wise Ratzinger was more Emperor Palpatine while Francis is good looking and smiles and seems nice, but in terms of policy they're all but identical. Which isn't surprising, no matter what his persona there's no way that Francis would have been in the running if he hadn't been essentially a hardcore conservative with no plans to change anything significant about the Church. The College of Cardinals is a self selecting body of hardcore conservatives who like the Church exactly the way it is and they chose the Pope.

But the author of this article seems so taken by the difference in personality that they are seeing a change in policy that just isn't present.

The Church is still the same Church that Ratzinger ran. There isn't anything even faintly resembling a Vatican III sort of reform, and there isn't anything going on even on a less grand scale. All Francis is doing is putting a smiling face on the same policies that Ratzinger and JPII developed and implemented. Heck, JPII was the guy in charge during decades of covering up for child rape by priests, yet he mostly gets a pass from critics because he, like Francis, looked good and seemed nice. Ratzinger's only real problem is that he just plain looked evil and never bothered trying to present a facade of kindness.

If anything I'd imagine that Ratzinger is sitting back and smiling as all the rubes imagine they see real change when all that has happened is the new boss just looks nicer than the old boss.
posted by sotonohito at 11:39 AM on April 22 [8 favorites]


Reading between the lines of articles published at the time, I'd assumed Benedict was forced out after an internally unearthed (but never publicly revealed) scandal, and that his supposedly self-imposed isolation was in fact a jail sentence by another name.

Is that a wildly implausible interpretation?
posted by nobody at 11:40 AM on April 22


I think Benedict realized, after he'd got to the top of his mountain and looked around for a little while, that he just didn't like the job. He acquired virtually no new power, took on a whole mess of new responsibilities that were very much not things he liked doing or was particularly good at...

Obviously, he already found an answer that was satisfactory to both himself and to the Church, but it's an interesting question for a Devil's advocate to ponder:

Is it better to change the custom that the Pope always does X, Y, and Z himself instead of delegating Z and part of X in order to concentrate more of his time and energy on Q, where it's more needed and where his talents lie,

or,

Is it better to change the custom that the Pope stays in office for life instead of stepping aside in favor of someone who enjoys, and is better at, X, Y, and Z?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:40 AM on April 22


Etrigan: "I think Benedict realized, after he'd got to the top of his mountain and looked around for a little while, that he just didn't like the job. He acquired virtually no new power, took on a whole mess of new responsibilities that were very much not things he liked doing or was particularly good at "

I truly don't think this was a mountain Benedict set out to climb. He is a brilliant theologian (not always a CORRECT theologian, IMHO, but quite brilliant) and he was a very good right-hand man (gossip says he held back some of John Paul II's more outlandish theological ideas, as JPII was a great shepherd and pastor, but not a stellar theologian and sometimes went off in odd directions). But he's never been very good at the PASTORAL parts of ministry, especially the large-group pastoral parts (he's supposed to be kind and warm one-on-one, but more in a "nice absentminded priest down the street" sort of way than a personal charisma Dalai Lama sort of way), and every (serious) biography of Benedict mentions one of the most constantly commented-upon characteristics of the man, dating back to his years at University and in graduate studies, which is that he has a really, really, really hard time with personal confrontation unless it is very strictly confined within the realm of academic dispute ... and if people start taking academic disputes personally, he gets very uncomfortable. He did well as an administrator carrying out other people's directives, and providing advice and expertise to a leader making decisions, but when he is placed in a position of government and management and the buck stopping with him, he reportedly really struggles with making decisions that with winners and losers, where he will hurt or disadvantage or embarrass someone, where there will be a lot of confrontation and personal discord. There's a lot of speculation that one of the reasons he retired when did was that WikiLeaks brought that discord into his personal household, as well as the church universal, as well as the Vatican management, etc etc etc, and that's where the demands of the Papacy (which before had been difficult) became intolerable. I don't know if that's true, and I'm sure there were many, many reasons -- not least of which is that Benedict is an astute observer of the Papacy and KNEW that there was going to have to be an evolution allowing retirement or removal or we were going to end up with Popes with Alzheimer's serving for 20 years of senility in a world where life can be extended almost indefinitely and there's a crush of 24-hour media ... that simply won't work any longer.

The other thing is, there ARE recent precedents for Benedict's life of retirement (as well as very old Papal examples that he's following relatively closely!), from people like the American presidents who tend to hush up for at least a couple of years after leaving office in order to give their successor space to govern, even though those are often extremely acrimonious interpersonal situations. Or Queen Elizabeth II, who has done an excellent job of keeping her mouth mostly shut about politics for more than fifty years, reportedly serving as an astute adviser to her prime ministers but very careful about keeping herself out of the political debate.

A much more interesting story, I think, would have delved into whether (and to what extent) Francis views Benedict as a resource and a blessing, the way the ex-presidents reportedly form a bit of a club and sometimes offer quiet advice to the current occupant, especially when things are personally (not politically) difficult. It must be something of a relief for Francis to know there's someone else who understands the unique pressures and stressors of a very difficult job.

The one thing about Benedict I have always wanted to know, though, is how did he manage to sit at the right hand of JPII for 23 years and never, ever, ever, ever figure out how to handle the press even a little? He constantly had his (red Prada slipper clad*) foot in his mouth because of ill-considered statements before the press as Pope.

*No hate for the red shoes from me, for two reasons. 1) I'm a liturgist, I like pomp. I think symbolism is important and I applaud Francis for choosing symbols of simplicity and solidarity with the poor, but I think it's okay to bust out the fancy stuff from time to time for some pomp and spectacle. 2) A lot of these fancy-schmancy liturgical garments preserve skills in hand-making clothes (and shoes) that otherwise might disappear; you see types of embroidery on cardinal's lace cuffs, for example, that you almost never see in the wild anymore. I myself have done some fancy embroidery for priests' stoles and donated them to parishes. Babies and priests are the only people who really want fancy clothing embroidery anymore!

nobody: " I'd assumed Benedict was forced out after an internally unearthed (but never publicly revealed) scandal, and that his supposedly self-imposed isolation was in fact a jail sentence by another name."

Benedict would have never, ever, ever retired under those circumstances; that's a big part of why Popes stopped retiring in the first place hundreds of years ago: if people can force a Pope to resign, they WILL attempt to force a Pope to resign, and the Papacy becomes much less a spiritual leader and much more a political football, a la the great Italian Renaissance families fighting over it (Medicis, Borgias). There would be world leaders trying to force the Pope out, there would be cardinals trying to force the Pope out, factions and sects in the Church, all kinds of people (Italian mob family who can't launder your money through the Vatican anymore? I think you know the solution to that). Choosing a Pope is definitely (at least partly) political but once a Pope is selected the politics goes more or less underground and is considered to be in very poor taste until the Pope seems to be on his deathbed, which lets Popes get on with the business of Pope-ing. If Popes could be forced into retirement, the Vatican would turn into the neverending American presidential primaries, where a new cycle begins as soon as the old one ends, or into the Game of Thrones. Benedict knew that and knew it well and the ONLY reason he could retire is that nobody expected it of him. If people had been PRESSURING him to retire, he would have sat in that bishop's chair until he DIED to serve the office. I am not a Benedict fan, but he absolutely would have viewed that as his responsibility to the integrity of the Papacy.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:55 AM on April 22 [42 favorites]


HOLD ON TO YOUR SCAPULARS AS FRANCIS LEAPS A RECORD-SETTING TEN CONFESSIONALS AND THEN OFFERS ABSOLUTION TO TRUCKASAURUS!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:02 PM on April 22 [20 favorites]


I sometimes spend emotional energy caring about the Pope this or the ex-Pope that, and then remember I'm not a Catholic and go back to the hockey scores.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:04 PM on April 22 [7 favorites]


I found that kind of a perturbing piece of journalism, for some of the reasons outlined in the article Jahaza linked to above. It doesn't clearly draw the line between interview and speculation. I *think* the journalist spoke to Benedict, if not Francis, but I am not 100% certain. That whole long paragraph of speculation toward the end of the piece (the one that begins 'what are you doing with me?') seems to be based on no actual fact. Overall, it's pretty gonzo for a serious piece about the popes. It's an interesting article--but very frustrating to engage with and tease out new content from authorial what-if.
posted by librarylis at 12:04 PM on April 22


So you're Canadian, KokuRyu?
posted by maryr at 12:06 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]


The one thing about Benedict I have always wanted to know, though, is how did he manage to sit at the right hand of JPII for 23 years and never, ever, ever, ever figure out how to handle the press even a little? He constantly had his (red Prada slipper clad*) foot in his mouth because of ill-considered statements before the press as Pope.

When you're really, really bad at something, the worst people to learn from are the ones who are really, really good at it. John Paul was naturally gifted at dealing with people, to the point that he could no more have taught it to Benedict than Michael Jordan could teach me how to play basketball -- that is, he could probably explain it, but not usefully.
posted by Etrigan at 12:06 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


So you're Canadian, KokuRyu?

Hockey has pretty much replaced the church in the hearts and minds of Canadians. I actually have zero to negative zero interest in the sport, but I have to carefully conceal my indifference in most social situations, or else suffer terrible consequences. I kind of understand how Jewish folks must feel in North America.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:09 PM on April 22 [7 favorites]


HOLD ON TO YOUR SCAPULARS AS FRANCIS LEAPS A RECORD-SETTING TEN CONFESSIONALS AND THEN OFFERS ABSOLUTION TO TRUCKASAURUS!

He's a truck that turns into a dinosaur and eats things. If any part of that is a sin in your book, I recommend you get out of the religion business immediately.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:14 PM on April 22 [7 favorites]


Gluttony is a cardinal sin.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:15 PM on April 22


Is it gluttony for a crocodile to eat an entire kangaroo? Or is it simply the natural order of things?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:26 PM on April 22 [4 favorites]


the all-caps quips remind me of the event, or maybe just urban legend, of when the pope visited (either miami or puerto rico iirc) for a big youth event, and an american company printed up thousands of t-shirts for the festivalgoers, "VI LA PAPA!"

(I SAW THE POTATO!)
posted by bruce at 12:27 PM on April 22 [6 favorites]


I find the way Benedict is cast as sort of a cartoon villain frustrating. I agree with him on very little, but I don't feel the need to say "I was right and you were wrong! Ha ha ha!", particularly when I'm not sure we know yet what lasting impact Francis will have on the course of the Church.

This, I think. In no way do I condone the conservative direction that the church was heading in, but you know what? Benedict is frail, 88-year-old man who can barely walk to his chapel.

The one thing about Benedict I have always wanted to know, though, is how did he manage to sit at the right hand of JPII for 23 years and never, ever, ever, ever figure out how to handle the press even a little?

Oh wait, he was JPII's right-hand man for 23 years? The pope who completely ignored the sex-abuse scandals? Hmm.

Yeah, not very good journalism in this article.
posted by Melismata at 12:28 PM on April 22


Basically (and I may be wrong here), Francis seems to realize that what's needed right now is one big damage control campaign after the drubbing the church has taken over the past decade or so.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:37 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


HOLD ON TO YOUR SCAPULARS AS FRANCIS LEAPS A RECORD-SETTING TEN CONFESSIONALS AND THEN OFFERS ABSOLUTION TO TRUCKASAURUS!

He's a truck that turns into a dinosaur and eats things. If any part of that is a sin in your book, I recommend you get out of the religion business immediately.


He only turns into a dinosaur and eats things on SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAYs. He's got six other days of the week to stumble.
posted by Etrigan at 12:41 PM on April 22


I don't begin to understand what it means to be a "brilliant theologian." Better at making stuff up?
posted by stenseng at 12:42 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


Theology is basically philosophy based on religious assumptions, rather than empiricism or something else. So yes, one can be good at it in all the ways that people can be good at any kind of thinking and writing, and it can be appreciated even if one doesn't share those assumptions.
posted by empath at 12:46 PM on April 22 [25 favorites]


sotonohito: "There isn't anything even faintly resembling a Vatican III sort of reform, and there isn't anything going on even on a less grand scale."

Vatican II was convened four years into John XXIII's papacy. Francis has been pope just over a year. Perhaps we should wait a bit before pronouncing judgment.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:48 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


Better at making stuff up?

I never get the disdain and disinterest people seem to have about religion and religious thinking.

On the other hand I guess I am lucky that I was not brought up in a religious household.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:57 PM on April 22 [3 favorites]


Dear mods, can I get a special indulgence to use all my favorites on this comment?
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:00 PM on April 22


I never get the disdain and disinterest people seem to have about religion and religious thinking.

If you've ever tried to leave a religion when your family is religious, or if you lived in a really religious community, you probably would. It's one thing to engage with it from a distance, it's another to have it pushed on you relentlessly. It's hard not to indulge in antipathy after a while. Which is not to say that it's a great attitude to take with Internet strangers discussing religion, but I totally understand the impulse.
posted by empath at 1:03 PM on April 22 [8 favorites]


Hey Jahaza,

Are there any solid articles from a learned Catholic perspective (rather than, "I drove by the dude's house once, wanna hear what I think?") about the differences between Francis and Benedict? Like, I am curious if there are doctrinal shifts, even subtle ones, or if it's all just been decontextualized quotes and media relations (and perhaps some shift in emphasis). I mean, I've heard plenty of American conservative bishops with a bug up their ass about Francis, but since a lot of what I hear from the Vatican-watchers is that there's really not so much of a difference, I'm curious if you have any articles that help limn that.
posted by klangklangston at 1:04 PM on April 22


nobody: "Is that a wildly implausible interpretation?"

Oh come on, nobody would think that!
posted by chavenet at 1:14 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]


I guess I don't even have the justification of bitterness from an oppressively religious upbringing - my parents basically let me check it all out and figure it out for myself. It's just never made a lick of sense to me, any of it, regardless of denomination.

In the case of Catholicism, it's felt like "Okay, so ~1700 years worth of cherry picked, mistranslated texts from a variety of sources of questionable veracity and historicity, many of which are *strangely* reminiscent of stories and tropes from previous religions which of course, Catholicism regards as *otherwise* entirely false, the authors of which, none were contemporaries of the main guy in question, who may or may not have actually even existed, and then you've created a whole second set of doctrines based, essentially, on the bureaucracy of the giant corporation you've built over said 1700+ years to exploit the masses with this stuff, and I'm supposed to take *any* of this seriously?" Whuf.
posted by stenseng at 1:16 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]


Hey stenseng, even speaking as someone not only wholly in sympathy with your views but who honestly thinks you've substantially understated it, I think we're courtin' mod intervention here. Francis' new broom is a really interesting topic that will only get derailed by yet another theism thread.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:21 PM on April 22 [9 favorites]


If you've ever tried to leave a religion when your family is religious, or if you lived in a really religious community, you probably would.

Yeah, absolutely I get this. As mentioned, I'm pretty glad now that I grew up in suburban middle-class Canada in the 70's and 80's, and that my parents were not particularly religious, although we did have to go down to the austere and very utilitarian Baptist church once a year. The pastor called my father by his childhood nickname, a few hymns were sung, and that was it.

So kids really should be allowed to make up their minds about this stuff, but that also means encouraging reverence and respect, if not for a particular faith, then towards the idea of faith.

But it would be much different I think if the loons were truly running the show in Canada like they are in Texas.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:24 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


I have trouble with everything stenseng mentions too, but then I just chalk it up to "it takes all kinds to make an interesting world." So Benedict can go on for 16 volumes about mistranslations? A lot of people want to read those volumes, so more power to him, and to them. It makes them happy. I have perfect pitch and make good homemade pies. We all have different talents. Life would be boring otherwise.
posted by Melismata at 1:24 PM on April 22


Yeah, I think it's totally fine to just be super unenthusiastic about the concept of theology as a discipline but maybe just go ahead and skip the thread in that case.
posted by cortex at 1:24 PM on April 22 [6 favorites]


When Benedict was poperated, I was told that the College of Cardinals picks a very old pope when they're not sure what they want to do, and a relatively young one when they do know.

So even before the retirement, Benedict must have known he was chosen as a Pope-pro-tempore, so to speak.
posted by ocschwar at 1:24 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


Hey stenseng, even speaking as someone not only wholly in sympathy with your views but who honestly thinks you've substantially understated it, I think we're courtin' mod intervention here. Francis' new broom is a really interesting topic that will only get derailed by yet another theism thread.


That's fair enough - sorry for the derail, y'all.
posted by stenseng at 1:26 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


When Benedict was poperated, I was told that the College of Cardinals picks a very old pope when they're not sure what they want to do, and a relatively young one when they do know.

So even before the retirement, Benedict must have known he was chosen as a Pope-pro-tempore, so to speak.


In fairness, following John Paul II would be a pretty thankless job. I wouldn't be surprised if a few Cardinals decided years ahead of time that they didn't want to be Pope That Guy After John Paul II, What Was His Name Again I.
posted by Etrigan at 1:29 PM on April 22 [5 favorites]


I don't begin to understand what it means to be a "brilliant theologian." Better at making stuff up?

That's not an entirely fair assessment. I don't get the sense that theologians make stuff up so much as analyze and interpret existing scripture and other religious writings. And some of that stuff is undoubtedly made up. This also describes much of the work of literary scholars, philosophers, and the people who contribute to the wikis for Star Trek and Marvel Comics. Not all of it necessarily needs to fit your definition of scholarship in order for it to be so.
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:29 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]


klangklangston: "Are there any solid articles from a learned Catholic perspective (rather than, "I drove by the dude's house once, wanna hear what I think?") about the differences between Francis and Benedict? Like, I am curious if there are doctrinal shifts, even subtle ones, or if it's all just been decontextualized quotes and media relations (and perhaps some shift in emphasis)."

I talked a little bit here about how Francis is shifting the conversation. The Papacy is probably better understood as an office of persuasion, as the Pope's real powers are terribly limited when it comes to the world-wide Church, and in an organization with a billion members it's tough to hand down rules anyway; it's much more about shifting people's opinions so most of them want the same things you want. Moreso than when talking about secular governments, you want to pay a lot of attention to word choice and symbolism. Francis choosing to wash the feet of women, convicts, non-Christians; Francis wearing plain clothing and living in simplicity; those are really powerful theological statements through symbolism, and the hierarchy hears him LOUD AND CLEAR.

(I'm going to try to take 20 minutes here and write a brief but coherent explanation of theology, it may or may not work out for me.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:31 PM on April 22 [7 favorites]


ocschwar: "When Benedict was poperated, I was told that the College of Cardinals picks a very old pope when they're not sure what they want to do, and a relatively young one when they do know.

So even before the retirement, Benedict must have known he was chosen as a Pope-pro-tempore, so to speak.
"

That was definitely the speculation at the time. Supposedly, there was a significant faction that wanted to move in a more progressive direction and the idea behind compromising on Benedict was not that he represented a compromise perspective, but that he would die relatively quickly and the progressive faction were betting that they'd have prevailed by then. Then he didn't die.
posted by hoyland at 1:32 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


My take on Francis is that while his policies are not changing, (after all, it usually takes hundreds of years for the church to change) the change in dialogue does make a difference at least in the political climate of the US.

I was going to write more, but Eyebrows McGee said exactly what I was aiming for in a much clearer way than I could.
posted by Hactar at 1:32 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


(Also, even an irreligious guy like me can only applaud as Francis moves the church in a more Jesusy direction. Regardless of how much if any of the Gospels you actually take as, er, um, gospel, Jesus' own moral philosophy kicks ass all over the church's record, so, y'know, go Francis.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:35 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]


klangklangston -

I think it's going to be tough (for now) to point to anything really definitive, for a couple of reasons. First, as was mentioned above, it's still really early in Francis' papacy. He speaks off the cuff with the press, which provides a lot of grist for the mill. Second, the writers on either side of the debate sort of self-select into the pro- and anti- camps. Each Pope is either the greatest thing ever, or a colossal mistake.

I like them both, for different reasons, but I'd also like to point out that 99% of Catholic life is lived in the local parish, far far removed from the goings-on in Rome. We pray for the Holy Father and his intentions every Sunday and some of us read through his writings when they're published, but day-to-day, he's the guy whose picture hangs in the narthex. The buck stops with our local bishop (whose picture also hangs in the narthex), for whom the Bishop of Rome is considered first among equals. I think we're likely to see more collegiality in decision making.

On the other hand, Francis has brought a breath of fresh air into things, which I guess plants me pretty well into the pro-camp. There seems to be an uptick in poverty-related programs locally, which is good, and maybe they would have happened if Benedict still sat in the Chair of Peter anyway. Certainly in dioceses close-by, the laity have had no problem at all holding the episcopate accountable in ways that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

(on preview, yep, Eyebrows McGee has said it very well)
posted by jquinby at 1:41 PM on April 22


Right on, George_Spiggott! At some point during my Sunday school education I went and read what Jesus actually said. And it's not that much at all. It's all very basic, like love your neighbor and blessed are the poor and such. And I was like, that's it? That's all he said? You mean the diatribes against women, the plenary indulgences, the antisemitism, the endless wars in his name...none of that was him?! Definitely an interesting world we live in.
posted by Melismata at 1:41 PM on April 22


It may not be actually doctrinal in nature but Francis made some formal written statements that I consider to be nothing short of revolutionary, and which were commented on in this site some months ago: That whole thing where he declared that questions of doctrine and theology were more appropriately decided through mass consensus rather than dictated by fiat; that the leadership of the Church must by right consult and converse with the laity rather than profess. That one bold statement essentially threatens to yank the Church bodily into the modern era.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 1:53 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


"I like them both, for different reasons, but I'd also like to point out that 99% of Catholic life is lived in the local parish, far far removed from the goings-on in Rome. We pray for the Holy Father and his intentions every Sunday and some of us read through his writings when they're published, but day-to-day, he's the guy whose picture hangs in the narthex. The buck stops with our local bishop (whose picture also hands in the narthex), for whom the Bishop of Rome is considered first among equals. I think we're likely to see more collegiality in decision making."

Yeah, I hear you about the local parish; that's actually where most of my venom for the Church would be directed. My extended family is all Catholic (my dad got the boot as a teen), and my dad's mom was a devout Irish Catholic woman in a Catholic neighborhood of Chicago (North Riverside, which went through Irish, German, then Polish and Bohemian, and now Latin American immigrant waves), and she went to mass at least twice a week, usually three times. She volunteered, she visited parishioners in the hospital, a lot of her social group was in that church, and it was a real anchor for her. But back, what, a decade ago or so, maybe 15 years, their kindly old priest who coulda been voiced by Bill Thompson got replaced by a younger, more conservative priest, who wanted to preach the fire and brimstone. And while gramma still went at least twice a week, and kept volunteering, I knew she wasn't wild about the new guy. But still, anchor of her social life.

When she got sick, the church did nothing for her. It was like she didn't exist. There were no homilies for her, like the old priest did when parishioners fell sick, the priest didn't visit her like the last priest did, and while some of her friends made sure the community knew, the church didn't give her that comfort that she so wanted. He managed to raise money for a renovation to the chapel, and he managed to decry birth control and abortion, but there was no outreach to people who had been going to that church for 50 years and needed comfort.

Even our family friend Mickey, who had gone to mass every single day for at least 30 years, who had stuck by the church and given more money than he probably should have, he left when his mother finally died and there was no mention, no condolences.

I've never been Catholic, but I knew what it meant to both of them. The Church abandoned them when they needed it. I have mixed feelings about Catholicism in general, but I spit on the fucking ground over that parish.
posted by klangklangston at 1:58 PM on April 22 [9 favorites]


I've known priests who are great bureaucrats and lousy pastors and wonderful pastors who couldn't organize a paper bag with a tennis ball inside it. The damage done by the wrong person in the wrong job can be horrendous.
posted by jquinby at 2:13 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]


BigLankyBastard: " That whole thing where he declared that questions of doctrine and theology were more appropriately decided through mass consensus rather than dictated by fiat; that the leadership of the Church must by right consult and converse with the laity rather than profess. That one bold statement essentially threatens to yank the Church bodily into the modern era."

That's why I feel a general Church Council and/or some formal feedback mechanism from the laity is something that may well happen.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:13 PM on April 22


Remeber that time and band camp when Boniface VIII hunted down Celestine V because Celestine V had just retired and said you couldn't be both good and pope at the same time, and then Boniface VIII locked him up in prison, and then Celestine died, and then Frederick the Fair totally used that to undermine the legitimacy of the papacy, and he sent his army to kidnap the pope? That was AWESOME.
posted by jwhite1979 at 2:15 PM on April 22 [3 favorites]


Norwich's History of the Papacy is pretty good, if it a bit hurried at times. It's full of that kind of stuff. The Year of Three Popes, for example.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:18 PM on April 22


stenseng: "In the case of Catholicism, it's felt like "Okay, so ~1700 years worth of cherry picked, mistranslated texts from a variety of sources of questionable veracity and historicity"

So, I am Catholic, I majored in theology at a Catholic university and I got a masters in theology at a Protestant seminary. You'd know the name of both, they're both top-25 US schools. I also went to law school at a top-ten law school; seminary was WAY HARDER than law school. Like there was barely a comparison in terms of the amount of intellectual work required and the rigor that work was conducted with. So I spent eight years doing this work largely because it was FUN, not because I had any expectation of going into ministry or teaching. I just liked doing it; I more or less knew I was going to go to law school.

Okay, so, right off the bat, you're starting with some misconceptions. Theologians loooooooooooove source texts with a passion most holy. As a lowly ex-theology student who recently purged my unnecessary texts, I have in my living room (I have to go count, hang on ...) six scholarly bibles, big fat ones with all the textual footnotes that say things like "Is 66:18 I am* coming to gather all nations and tongues. *Note: Gk Syr Vg Tg: Heb it is" Which means that the text in question (New Revised Standard Version) follows the Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, and Targum texts in using "it is" rather than the Masoretic Text's use of "I am" (the NRSV generally uses the Masoretic text as its primary source text). These textual notes can take up as much as half the page noting which different old texts have which different specific words. Three of my scholarly Bibles are in Hebrew. There is of course a Hebrew lexicon handy, and a Hebrew grammar. Right next to the Bibles I have three fat books of Bible-adjacent texts that didn't make it into the Bible or divergent versions of Bible texts, and another couple of mythological parallels (to Bible stories) from other nearby cultures. I've got three shelves (I don't know, maybe 18 shelf-feet?) of Bible-related STUFF, concordances and commentaries and archaeological surveys and sociological studies and whatnot. I've got a 600-page commentary on Galatians, which itself is only four pages in length, just because I like Galatians.

If you talk to a theologian about a piece of "cherry-picked, mistranslated text," you're going to get twenty minutes on the etymology of a particular Hebrew word and its appearance in related texts and choices of modern English translators and how a medieval Latin word choice influenced 12th-century theological development in Hamburg before they get to the point of telling you what it may or may not actually mean. "Catechetics" is all the "just-so" stories you tell children to make moral points from Bible stories. People doing catechetics are the ones walking around telling the parable of the talents is about God wanting you to use your talents to help others and the theologians are the ones punching them in the face for abuse of Greek. Catechetics is what most people get in their home churches growing up. Some of it's good, a lot of it is bad, and almost all of it is taught by people with no special training or expertise in theology (ministers get SOME theology training in most denominations, but really it's a professional degree preparing for working as ministers, not an academic degree preparing for working as a theologian, and ministers know the difference). Theology is WAY more rigorous and way more interesting.

Theology, because it is old and big, contains a lot of branches. You can specialize in Biblical studies which involves a lot of textual criticism and learning of ancient languages (typically to get a PhD in it from a competitive program, you need not just Hebrew and Greek and Latin but also at least two ancient near eastern languages like Moabitic or Ugaritic or something, and you're reading all of those texts from "previous religions" to trace the development of the underlying myths and stories and the cultural and linguistic influences). There are theologians who study anthropology or sociology or history of religions. There is a branch called "ecclesiology" which is the study of the institutional structure of the church, which is not so different from political science in which one studies governments. There's systematics, which tries to formalize and systematize all these other things into a coherent whole. Some people like to get picky about what counts as "theology" and what counts as "religious studies," but regardless of how you want to slice that lemon, there's a lot of overlap.

I wrote my masters' thesis in liturgical theology (specifically related to pregnancy), which included studying how Catholicism, other Christian faiths, other monotheistic faiths, and other non-monotheistic faiths treated pregnancy in their official and unofficial religious ceremonies, both historically and in the modern world; studying the Bible and official religious doctrine on pregnancy, how that has developed and changed; looking at how well religious ceremonies express official doctrine; surveying how pregnant women have responded to those ceremonies, both historically where I could find it and by consulting present social science; looking at anthropological, sociological, psychological, and medical studies of how humans "need" to recognize life transitions like pregnancy and what kinds of social/medical/religious rituals we typically have around pregnancy, what their goals are, and whether they "work," -- analyzing all of this -- and then making suggestions as to what a more theologically complete (that's a theology way of saying "better" without saying "your liturgy sucks") liturgy would look like.

Now, I completely get how this may look silly to someone who doesn't believe in God. But I don't think it's any sillier than a sociological survey of American high school proms, or creating recommendations for how to make prom involve less drunk driving and unintended pregnancy. Prom doesn't really have any OBJECTIVE meaning, but it means a lot to a lot of people and has real consequences in the world. God may or may not exist (I fully recognize I am operating on the basis of something that cannot be proven! It's okay! I won't mind if you point it out!), but there are a billion people who happen to follow my particular religion, approximately half of whom will be pregnant at some point, and how Catholicism talks about pregnancy has real effects in the world that are important, and how it talks about and ministers to pregnant women can bring a lot of comfort and support to women and families, or it can alienate or shame or drive people away from adequate prenatal care or whatever.

Some parts of theology are silly, it's true. Theologians are, at base, people who really like to argue about things, like lawyers or philosophers, and the absolute best arguments are the ones that are impossible to make any progress on ("how many angels on the head of a pin?") because you can have all the fun of arguing with absolutely nothing at stake and no possibility of settling it. But when those things either get taken Really Seriously or presented as the Important Issues of the Day, that's a problem (and both things will happen, inevitably). And some theologians are bad people or want bad things. And some parts of theology are boring. (I find systematics JUST EXCRUCIATING for the most part. I've read my fair share because it's important to the other branches of theology, but JUST EYE-STABBINGLY DULL. Other people absolutely can't stand slogging through ancient languages when someone else has already done all the translation work. But I love that bit.)

Theology is truly an excellent training ground for the mind, and endlessly interesting because it involves humans trying to answer life's biggest questions (existence, morality, mortality, self-governance, community, self) over thousands of years. WHAT IS NOT INTERESTING ABOUT THAT? If theology isn't fun, you're not doing it right! Done properly, it's extremely rigorous, and it's no accident that many great philosophers, lawyers, and leaders were trained first in theology -- but also an awful lot of scientists: Copernicus, Francis Bacon, Descartes, Kepler, Galileo, Pascal, Boyle, Mendel all had theological training, and many of them made significant contributions to theology as well as science. The best theology programs in the United States are located at big-name, highly-rigorous universities: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Duke, Notre Dame, University of Chicago, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, GTU at Berkeley. Theology programs at these types of places for undergrads have excellent placement rates for their graduates in top law schools and med schools (better than students at the same schools pursuing other majors), because they're enormously rigorous and turn out hugely competitive students.

Part of what's great about theology is that if you want to talk about, say, the nature of evil, you've got FIVE THOUSAND YEARS of really brilliant thinkers to argue with. (This is what aggravates a lot of theologians about the "New Atheists" -- since most of them have no exposure to theology, they bring something up as if it's a great point that nobody has ever thought of before. And all the theologians are like, "Dude, your argument is so eleventh century, and this guy said THIS and that guy responded THAT and the third guy argued THIS and you have basically not dealt with any of that at all and there are seriously three hundred major authors to contend with before you claim you win the points.") You never get to be intellectually lazy because you've got this massive body of tradition and theology to grapple with, and when people spend hundreds of years on a particular point, the arguments get pretty refined and complex and you've got to really sharpen and clarify your arguments.

But really the best part is, it's so fun! It's like the most fun a brain can have legally. :)

That was longer than I intended. Hope it was helpful and/or interesting. Thus endeth the lesson.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:46 PM on April 22 [180 favorites]


This article provided us with some laughs when we got it in the mail. Its more comically bad parts are all the funnier dressed in stately longform navelgazing. We need another Chris Hitchens to let the air out of this kind of thing.
posted by michaelh at 2:50 PM on April 22


Wow, I came in to say I thought it was super weird at the end where the author implies there's a conspiracy that's going to get Francis assassinated but I stayed for Eyebrows McGee explaining what theologians actually do. That was cool!
posted by Tesseractive at 3:00 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


stenseng: "In the case of Catholicism, it's felt like "Okay, so ~1700 years worth of cherry picked, mistranslated texts from a variety of sources of questionable veracity and historicity"
Well, speaking Latin himself he doesn't need a translation for many of the authoritative texts we have and speaking fluent German, Italian, French, and English he has direct access to all of the best textual work done on Greek and Hebrew, both of which, like most priests, he has a basic students knowledge of. I think it could safely be said that Pope Benedict has a much more in depth knowledge of translational accuracy, textual authority, and biblical historicity; though on preview I can see that Eyebrows has already masterfully covered this.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:14 PM on April 22


Eyebrows McGee: "(I find systematics JUST EXCRUCIATING for the most part. I've read my fair share because it's important to the other branches of theology, but JUST EYE-STABBINGLY DULL. Other people absolutely can't stand slogging through ancient languages when someone else has already done all the translation work. But I love that bit.)"
If you would be so kind as to travel to Berlin and help him out of his tomb, I understand Friedrich Schleiermacher would like to fight you.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:20 PM on April 22 [4 favorites]


Other people absolutely can't stand slogging through ancient languages when someone else has already done all the translation work.

Translation between languages is just one person's interpretation of what it all means.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:37 PM on April 22


GTU at Berkeley

For the record, the GTU is a separate institution(s). It doesn't have any undergraduates. There's cross-registration with Berkeley, and cross-registration does actually happen in both directions.
posted by hoyland at 3:38 PM on April 22


But really the best part is, it's so fun! It's like the most fun a brain can have legally. :)

That was longer than I intended. Hope it was helpful and/or interesting. Thus endeth the lesson.


My dismissive faux-ignorant trolling aside, I'm not actually completely unaware of the breadth and complexity of theology as a field of intellectual pursuit - more that I'm bemused at the very depth and divergence present in a subject that, to an irreligious doctrinal scofflaw such as myself, seems like so much nonsense and navel gazing from the get-go.

That said, I didn't want to just disappear, tail tucked, from the thread after dropping a steaming snark pile - particularly after your interesting and informative response. A genuine response to an at least somewhat disingenuous question.
posted by stenseng at 3:38 PM on April 22 [3 favorites]


Is it gluttony for a crocodile to eat an entire kangaroo? Or is it simply the natural order of things?



Well, this raises a good question- does Truckasaurus have a soul? Does he have free will, and can he tell the difference between good and evil? Can he know the Word?


I side with Bartolomé de las Casas, and choose to believe that the Dinocars can be saved.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:36 PM on April 22 [5 favorites]


I heard a conspiracy theory from somewhere (maybe here in the Blue?) that the reason Benedict is remaining cloistered post-retirement is that since he's no longer a head of state, if he went to other countries he could be subpoenaed or even prosecuted for his role in helping the Church (and yes, the papacy of JPII) cover up molestation and sex abuse.

Sort of like Uruguay and Chile attempting to extradite Kissinger for Operation Condor.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 5:38 PM on April 22


We need another Chris Hitchens to let the air out of this kind of thing.

[screams internally] [posts comment for public view]
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:40 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]


One of the things that JPII was huge on, and that Benedict pushed him back on, according to scuttlebutt was Marian work. Marian devotion are profoundly populist, and are a ready symbol of the split between the official church and the vernacular church. Benedict's theology was much more christological, and was v. high. Francis is much less of a theogian, and much lower-but he makes an argument for a vernuclar christology, and against a marian direction. I wonder if Francis' work is to pull the church away from people like the legionaires of christ, from folk devotions, and towards a low christology that maintains high ambitions?
posted by PinkMoose at 5:56 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


does Truckasaurus have a soul?

He does.
posted by thelonius at 6:04 PM on April 22


Francis gave a blessing “respecting the conscience of each one of you, but knowing that each one of you is a child of God.”

“What kind of fucking apostolic blessing is that?”

One of these people remembers what being a Christian really means.
posted by arcticseal at 6:16 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


What an awesome comment, Eyebrows.


On the other hand, Metafilter: punching (them) in the face for abuse of Greek.
posted by glasseyes at 7:28 PM on April 22


Dear mods, can I get a special indulgence to use all my favorites on this comment?

If the mods start selling indulgences a strongly worded document will be nailed to mathowie's door.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:35 PM on April 22 [5 favorites]


So kids really should be allowed to make up their minds about this stuff, but that also means encouraging reverence and respect, if not for a particular faith, then towards the idea of faith.

I'm not automatically saying you're wrong, but I am curious about why you think the first part means the second part. Certainly it means allowing people of faith to practice said faith unmolested, but why would they even want the false reverence of people who don't share it?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:42 PM on April 22


Eyebrows McGee: "Hope it was helpful and/or interesting"

That was sensational, and eye-opening. Thanks!
posted by dhruva at 8:15 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]


"Hope it was helpful and/or interesting"

It was pretty interesting, but much more interesting if you imagine it as about the Wikipedia editing process / talk pages for articles related to Star Trek.
posted by thedaniel at 9:07 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]


"If the mods start selling indulgences a strongly worded document will be nailed to mathowie's door."

treatyofwestphalia.txt
posted by klangklangston at 10:41 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


I have long thought of theology as closest to anthropology, if only because the amount it has to say about the nature of God exists in homeopathic dilution compared to what it has to say about people. It's actually very good at that,

In general, when considering religion, it's probably best not to get too hung up about the God thing.
posted by Devonian at 3:01 AM on April 23 [2 favorites]


Are there any solid articles from a learned Catholic perspective (rather than, "I drove by the dude's house once, wanna hear what I think?") about the differences between Francis and Benedict? Like, I am curious if there are doctrinal shifts, even subtle ones, or if it's all just been decontextualized quotes and media relations (and perhaps some shift in emphasis).

There's a LOT of commentary, but I think (as some other folks have pointed out) that it's still too soon to tell and so there's not really anything definitive yet. This isn't helped by the Pope's penchant for giving good quote that gets walked back or taken out of context and the general incompetence of the Vatican's media/spokesperson operation.

John Allen, now at the Boston Globe, probably does the best English language balanced Vatican reporting.
posted by Jahaza at 9:25 AM on April 23 [2 favorites]


Why It’s So Hard To Talk About Theism & Atheism
posted by KokuRyu at 12:18 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]


"There's a LOT of commentary, but I think (as some other folks have pointed out) that it's still too soon to tell and so there's not really anything definitive yet. This isn't helped by the Pope's penchant for giving good quote that gets walked back or taken out of context and the general incompetence of the Vatican's media/spokesperson operation."

Cool, thanks. I appreciate that.
posted by klangklangston at 2:00 PM on April 23


Frontline: Secrets of the Vatican - An inside look at the scandals that rocked Benedict's papacy
posted by homunculus at 9:25 PM on April 23


Also, I think maybe Pope Francis himself hasn't decided yet how different he wants to be from Pope Benedict in matters of substance (as opposed to matters of style, where he clearly strikes a different pose.)
posted by Jahaza at 7:48 AM on April 24


Again, I'm not Catholic, so this is an honest question from someone who truly doesn't know.

To the soldiers on the ground - parishioners and the clergy with whom they have day-to-day, face-to-face dealings - does official de jure Church policy truly have more de facto impact on their lives than the general attitude of the leadership does?

I know that policy matters have an impact over whether some people choose to leave the Church or remain, but for the ones who choose to stay regardless?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:35 AM on April 24


For many Catholics, the teachings of the Church are the reason why we stay. The Catholic Church makes particular claims about herself, and you can accept them or reject them. If you accept them, you're also accepting her teaching authority, what we call the Magisterium. We believe that the Church - and only the Church - has the ability to teach authoritatively on matters of faith.

The individuals at any level really don't matter as much as the sum total of all of us together, the Body of Christ. We're all human: fallible and sinful. And sinful doesn't mean that I'm running around torching hospitals or selling crack, though those are certainly sinful. Sinful means that I have fallen - and will fall - short of what I am supposed to do, either by action or inaction.

Father Grouch or Bishop Dipstick are only human, though humans called to (and accepting) a certain vocation charged with getting souls to Heaven, period. They get them to heaven by administering the sacraments of the Church, teaching, and carrying out the other duties of their offices.

So when, recently, a family in our parish lost their son in a tragic car accident, did the church do anything? Well, Father basically lived alongside them for days and he celebrated the Requiem Mass for the funeral. The family's name came up in our prayer intentions during other Masses. There were people who told me that the church should do more, meaning the guy in the collar. I disagreed, because he did everything his office entailed and more.

But the capital-C Church? All the people in the pews? I've never seen so many people mobilize so quickly to support a family so quickly. Father didn't ask for a second collection to cover their expenses because he didn't have to. Ditto for, what, the next 6 months of meals, and so on.

As I said above, the wrong person in the wrong job can wreak havoc that takes years to fix. When I find myself thinking "the Church ought to do such-and-such," I try to reframe the question as "what can I do to affect such-and-such? do I have the right charism for this sort of thing or do I know someone who does?"

It's a big boat; you'll find all kinds, and that's fine with me. I'm not sure if this answers your question. Hit me up via mefi-mail if not.
posted by jquinby at 11:33 AM on April 24 [1 favorite]


"If the mods start selling indulgences a strongly worded document will be nailed to mathowie's door."

AKA the "97 Feces"
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:13 PM on April 24 [1 favorite]


Emphasis can be very important. The church could leave its position on abortion unchanged, but if the direction from the Vatican is to focus on other issues, then it is less of a point of conflict.

The church certainly has a position on the exact nature of the divinity of Christ, for example, but there's seems to be no danger of them going to war over a diphthong, as Gibbon put it.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:35 PM on April 24


AKA the "97 Feces"

He can then issue a Poopal Bull.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:10 PM on April 24


« Older The BBC put together a series of television commen...  |  Your Friendly Neighborhood Dru... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments