Picking a pope


I have no stake in the matter of who’s the Pope – or do I? Choose a cardinal who issues a homily titled “On the Need to Gas Grandpa When He Starts Crapping Himself” – I’m sure it would sound better in Latin – and this might have an impact on the society where I hope to find myself in 30 years. The selection of Ratzinger was initially heartening, simply because he made the right people apoplectic. I’m still astonished that some can see a conservative elevated to the papacy and think: a man of tradition? As Pope? How could this be? As if there this was some golden moment that would usher in the age of married priests who shuttle between blessing third-trimester abortions and giving last rites to someone who’s about to have the chemical pillow put over his face. At the risk of sounding sacreligious: it’s the Catholic Church, for Christ’s sake! You’re not going to get someone who wants to strip off all the Baroque ornamentation of St. Peter’s and replace them with IKEA wine racks, okay?

I have my doctrinal differences with the Catholic church as well; I understand the reasons for requiring priestly celibacy, but I don’t agree with them. I don’t agree with many Catholic positions on issues regarding sexuality. Growing up Lutheran, I was gently guided away from the clanging errancy of Maryolatry. Because I disagree with the Catholic Church on these and a few other matters, I am– how do I put this? – NOT CATHOLIC. Hence I am always amazed by people who want the church to accommodate their thoughts, their new beliefs, their precarious and ingenious rationales, instead of ripping themselves from the bosom and seeking a congregation that doesn't make them feel like a heretic banging thier head on Filarete's doors. To those who want profound change, consider an outsider’s perspective: the Catholic Church is the National Review of religion. You may live long enough to see it become the Weekly Standard. In your dreams it might become the New Republic. But it’s never going to be the Nation. And if ever it does, it will have roughly the same subscriber base.
Like Lileks, I am not a Catholic so I have resisted comments on this issue. It is interesting that the same people who want George Bush to select people who disagree with him when making appointments, want the Catholic church to select a pope who disagrees witht he church's position. Bill Clinto could pick people who may disagree with one of his stated positions because his only core belief was in maintaining his political viability. If picking someone who disagreed with him helped his political viability, he would do it. Having core beliefs makes that more difficult.

Priest celibacy does not make sense as a core belief though. There is nothing in the Bible that even speaks to it and the Catholic church did not require it until the middle ages when it was put in as a rather heavy handed way of dealing with a nepotism problem. Whether they decide to change this policy is for them to decide but the decision will have little to do with conservatism or moderninity. Most of the protestant churches came into being because of the belief of some that the Catholic church had strayed from the original church described in the Bible. That is why most of them do not require celibacy for church leaders, among other things.

Lileks would find it easy to locate a Lutheran church in Washington County, Texas which has over 40 of them. Many of the founders of these churches fled Germany because the Catholic church was intolerant of their beliefs. Liberal wishful thinkers need to relearn the lessons of tolerance for all faiths.


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