PMS 2: Why Can’t the Pope Be More Like Us
OK, the Washington Post editorial board didn’t actually say that the Pope should be more like a collection of journalists. It did say, however, that the successor to Benedict XVI should sound a lot more like an American liberal:
The hallmark of Pope Benedict’s tenure, for better or for worse, was fierce resistance to those changes. He rejected calls by Catholic progressives for reconsideration of doctrines such as celibacy and the ban on women in the priesthood; at a time when acceptance of the rights of gays and lesbians is rapidly spreading across the world, he was outspoken in condemning homosexuality as “unnatural” and unacceptable. With sectarian tension growing in Europe as well as the Middle East, he eschewed dialogue with Muslims and infuriated many by quoting a condemnation of Islamic theology as “evil and inhuman.”
1) Celibacy is not a doctrine, it’s a discipline, and is not universal among Roman Catholic clergy. 2) The Vatican under John Paul II closed the door on discussion of male priesthood, and those who continue to demand that it “reconsider” the question might as well demand that it repudiate the doctrine of the Trinity. 3) Acceptance of gay rights is “rapidly spreading” across the Western world. Most of the world still regards homosexual behavior as wrong. 4) The Regensburg lecture is hardly the only thing Benedict had to say about Islam during the course of his tenure. And and as far as it goes, what he said in that lecture was a classic gaffe—factually correct, and problematic because solely because of external circumstances (in this case, the sensitivity of many Muslims to any form of criticism, no matter how constructive or benignly intended.)
Pope Benedict will leave behind a church facing the same debilitating problems that loomed after the death of Pope John Paul II — above all, how to remain relevant to an increasingly secular world and to its own changing membership. This pope’s response was to insist that only uncompromising adherence to past doctrine could preserve the faith. Catholics who seek a different answer will have to hope that a college of cardinals dominated by the pope’s appointees will choose a more progressive successor.
In other words, American and European Catholics (and the Post editorial board) who want the Roman Catholic Church to become the U.S. Episcopal Church must hope that cardinals appointed by two great champions of Catholic orthodoxy will elect a pseudo-Catholic as Pope. Hope they aren’t holding their collective breath. They clearly aren’t getting quite enough oxygen to the brain as it is.
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