Friday, February 15, 2013

John XXIV, John Paul III ?

 An interesting moment in church history is happening. Benedict XVI is resigning in a few days. This is news. Certainly, this is headline news. It is not unprecedented. It has been rumoured for years that Pope Benedict was considering retirement.

Pope St. Celestine V was chosen as an aged monk to become pope in 1294. He resisted the decision and resigned in five months. Benedict visited his tomb in Aquila on 29 April 29 2009, and left behind his pallium (a stole that [in the West] the pope, and archbishops wear as sign of office). He visited again to pray on 2 July 2010. After both visits, some people thought Benedict was showing a public message of similar considerations to follow Celestine's path. There had been other popes that left office, but for different reasons, and not willingly. The pope is the Bishop of Rome, and all bishops can resign.

Benedict is now past 85 and frail, his predecessor was very ill for years. They made different decisions, and both are valid. John Paul gave example of the dignity that all people aged and weak and suffering had merit. Benedict is showing politically that the office deserves a man of full competencies, and that the office and the man are separate.

It is true, the Church has great troubles now (and it and the world always have had). Much of the trouble is self-inflicted. A great deal of that is predicated by unchecked clericalism. There is extremely little accountability of management, and the higher up, the more so.

What of Vatican II and its critics? This has not been resolved. And many of these critics are guilty clericalists.

The reporter, John Allen, brought this very, cogent, following point up. This conclave will be remarkably different. It will be absent of funereal tributes, and mourning. The emotional grip and shock will be absent. The extreme outpouring of feeling for the passing of John Paul can not be forgotten. "Santo Subito" the crowds implored, not so this time. Benedict has not passed, he has remained.

Now, when the story broke Monday in America, reporters jumped to ask, and to find people to speak, on how a new pope would be different for Catholicism. The issues all had some relation to sex (married priests, women priests, birth control, abortion), as if those are the only issues that exist in the Church. Those are not my issues (per se).

Then the talk went to handicapping the field, as do gamblers and bookmakers. People continue to chatter nonsense, and we live in the US, so a papal conclave of cardinals is going to convene their electoral convention. An American pope? Timothy Dolan, you got to be kidding, or you are stupid. Besides being a windbag that likes the camera, what is Dolan's heft? Is there an American cardinal that speaks much more than English? Is there one that is a scholar? The American bench is weak, and even if it was not, who outside of the United States would consider an American?

Now, there are many issues. One extremely important one, that the press and much of the public does not consider, and oversees all the things they are interested in:  is the relationship between the People of God, and the structure of the Church.

Here is the great opportunity. This conclave, this college of cardinals, can consider in clearer concentration their candidate. A negative liability is that the last two popes have chosen all these men, and their combined perspective might be narrow and inadequate. We will need the active intervention by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps these imperfect men may come to an excellent choice.

After the white puff of smoke is seen, and the new man is introduced on the balcony to the world, we will be given his mini-biography. In those few details his most attractive salient experiences and characteristics will be presented. That may hint, but we will see in his actions his virtue for the office.

postscriptum 13 February 2014:  Well, i guess this answers it:
....“John, I would have called myself John, like the Good Pope; I would have been completely inspired by him,” Bergoglio told Cardinal Francesco Marchisano, according to a new book by longtime Italian Vaticanista Gianluca Barile.

(“Giovanni, mi sarei chiamato Giovanni, come il Papa Buono, mi sarei ispirato completamente a lui.”)....


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