Sunday, April 03, 2005

Collecting Thoughts on John Paul II and a Future Pope: Pope Leo XIV

I hate "spring ahead" or "spring forward" or whatever the heck it is called. It's just someone's attempt at sardonic humor.

Why does everyone keep saying that Cardinal Arinze is papabile? He is not!!! It is not even desirable.

As time passes my assessment of John Paul II's pontificate grows more positive. It may be a reaction to "complex" reactions many on the liberal (secular, that is) side are having. I've seen JPII described as "polarizing," "very conservative," "medieval" etc. Well excuse me, I'm not exactly sure what he was supposed to do--change the church 180 degrees just because it is out of step with modern sensibilities?

The Church is a large ship, you don't turn it around on a whim. JPII made progress on several fronts, there's no reason to expect from any pope, the whole gamut of changes everyone wants. Also, unlike other many liberals, I don't see it as the job of the Church leadership to be be progressive or enact sweeping change that agitation has to come from elsewhere. Church leaders are charge with preserving and their job in my opinion is naturally conservative.

When change occurs, you can never go back. Changes in the Catholic church not only affect a billion people world wide, but also they have ramifications for centuries to come. There's never any reason for the Church to change on the simple turn of an argument or the development of certain cultural sensibilities. The Church has to be absolutely certain of what it is doing before it takes a step in the direction of change and reform. This is why I don't fault the Pope for not being progressive enough or for not embracing current contemporary views of things.

His pontificate was about one thing, Vatican II, and realizing that dream. Did he accomplish the realization of the dream? You'd have to say that he was succesful and now the Church moves on.

The one thing that displeased me greatly about the pontificate of JPII was that he failed to give direction and definition to the idea of culture of life and now we have a monster on our hands that will come back to bite the hierarchy and all clear thinking Catholics in the butt. I felt that he had an opportunity during the election year to make a point but was more concerned with the power of the hierarchy than the truth of what should be "pro-life." For me, this was not an insignificant failing. I don't think he or the Vatican realized the pandora's box they opened.

Another point of dissatisfaction stems from my hunch that the Vatican is looking to break the back of the liberal movement in the Catholic Church. I don't have any direct proof, it's just a hunch. There's a feeling among conservatives that the liberal nutcases from Vatican II's generation are dying out, that their liturgical abominations are now anathema, their theological spokespersons are largely discredited and muted, and they are now politically weaker than ever before. So I think there was a sense of the need to deliver fatal blows and rid the church of such a scourge.

Hey, if I was in the hierarchy and felt that certain currents in the Church were inimical to the soul of the Church, I am, not by any means, above nasty politicking and jujitsu to take care of business. So I say the man did his job.

On the other hand, I like him personally. I like the fact that he was a thinker, had two Ph.D.s, was dramatist, understood the importance of culture, was devoted to the youth, devoted to social justice and made important contributions to the social justic traditions. I like that he knew his mind and was comfortable in his own skin.

On MSNBC I saw some Rome priest, I think it was a Fr Williams, with the Legionaires of Christ university talking about this John Paul the Great thing. He noted how we have to "the greats" in Church history, St Leo and St Gregory. He further said that the acclamation "the great" is a grassroots thing. Now, here's the kicker. He informed us that the phrase Johannes Paulus II Magnus (The Great) was used in the official text at the Requiem Mass. That's Vatican grassroots for you.

This Fr Williams also said that "he is hearing" people call JPII, "Doctor Vertitatis," just as Aquinas is doctor angelicus, etc. You've got to be kidding me. I can get with the "Doctor" thing, but drop the "veritatis," that's dumb. If anything, it needs to be "Doctor Phenomenologicus" or the Phenomenological Doctor.

As for a next pope, I have no idea. I would throw up if we got an Italian. If we get a European, I'd be nauseous. For me, it has to be an African or Latino. I'd take an Asian too. I think the next pope can go two routes. One would be to give everyone a breather and try to heal divisions. IMHO, that would be a waste of time, because all sides are so hardened no healing is going to happen. On the liberal side, we are nice decent people who have tried honest dialog and see where that got us. On the conservative side, there are scorpion types, nuff said.

I think the next Pope should simply jump right in and do his thing, unless his thing is healing divisions, then don't jump in. The reason I see no middle ground is this. What exactly is the middle ground in contraception or women priests? There is reasonable middle ground on choice but the scorpion kings have poison for brains so there, so much for that. On condoms for HIV protection, there may be middle ground, but I don't see it. Gay marriage, there is middle ground but I doubt they'd take it. The via media here is actually a position I hold. The Church is under no obligation demanded by doctrine or prudence to call gay marriage sacramental, but the drive to exterminate the idea of gay marriage has been nothing short of inimical. The Church can do one of two things via-media-wise: it can halt its vocal and vicious opposition to civil gay marriage or it can reinforce the teachings of separating church and state. Either option can be done at no violence to traditional teachings, yet be conciliatory to the other side.

As for the new pope's name. I predict Pope Leo XIV. Why? Well There was John XXIII and then Paul VI, who did the Vatican II thing. Then came John Paul I who combined both names in order to do his predecessors homage. Then came John Paul II who wanted to continue John Paul I's legacy. Now, prior to John XXIII were the Pius's, X, XI, XII and a boring Benedict I think sprinkled in. Benedict is not memorable so the symbolic force of a Benedict name would be sorely lacking. Pius XI and XII are kryptonite because of the Nazi thing. John Paul III would not make sense because there really isn't a JPII legacy that begs for completion. So we have then to go back prior to Pius X and Leo XIII.

Now, Leo XIII is perfect because, he is fondly remembered for his St Michael prayer and his insightful encyclical Rerum Novarum that launched the modern Catholic social justice tradition. Also he came on the heels of the longest reigning pope, Pius IX, who reigned for 40 years: which would be similar to the situation of the next Pope. He basically launched a new direction and that's what a new pope may want to do. So I predict that the next guy would want to walk in Leo XIII's footsteps.

Lastly, the new Pope needs to stop by and interview with me so that I can give him my blessing and approval. That's the condition for my much sought after endorsement.


Anonymous Abe Delnore said...


Yet another problem with taking the regnal name Pius is that there is already an antipope (the ex-Capuchin Earl Pulvermacher) claiming to be Pius XIII.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Nate said...

I wondered what the next Pope's name would be, and my mother thought I was crazy. I'm glad I'm not the only one who wonders such things!

Personally, I think it's possible that a new name could be taken. Maybe a Patrick or a Francis, you know? But maybe that's unlikely. If it's a traditional name, I hope it will be Pope Celestine VI. Why? I like the name Celestine. And we haven't had a Celestine since 1294. Of course that's probably because Pope St. Celestine V abdicated the Chair of St. Peter, and that would thus possibly make a negative association with the name Celestine. But then again, Pope Celestine V is canonized, so it's not like he was a bad guy. But I mostly just like the name Celestine.

I'd like to see a Pope with the nerve to name himself Pope Peter II. I'm surprised it's never been done, frankly.

5:45 PM  
Blogger sandy said...

I just hope we don't get a Pope who goes backwards on economic justice, the death penalty and the like. I also agree that I don't understand exactly how people would expect the Church to change its views on abortion and human life.

I do think the Chuch is incredibly wrong on condoms, however. Condom use ought to be a life preseving, self-defense act; a response to a horrific epidemic that is beyond anything we've faced before.

I would also like to see the Church go back to the more humanitarian view of gays that was held back in the 70's. It seems to me the Church has either said or come close to saying that homosexuality is innate. That being the case, there seems to be no logic in claiming they are evil at the same time. I can see where the Church wouldn't offer the Sacrament of Marriage; but it could certainly back out of the secular, civil union debate. In the interest of promoting humane treatment of all people, I just don't see how we can continue ostracizing anybody.

I'd also like to see nuns brought up into the hierarchy. Seems to me that would be a quicker way to have women fully participate in the Church than trying to get women priests.

Thanks for the thoughtful post Ono, one of the better than I've seen.

5:27 PM  

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