I have said some really nice things about the current Pope. One would get the impression from reading my blog of late that I am a huge fan of Pope Benedict. I’m really not. I see some good qualities about him that I do admire. I am not, however, moved to the point that I long to be Roman Catholic again.
His background was as a theologian and a seminary professor. Under the reign of Pope John Paul II he was the theological point person to enforce John Paul’s rigid views of theology. John Paul was elected when I was still in the seminary (and was Roman Catholic) and found myself very inspired to become Protestant.
I am not an admirer of John Paul. People now like to call him John Paul the great and many have said that he needs to be on the fast track towards becoming a saint. How a person who turned a blind eye, an intentional blind eye on sexual abuse within his church to be called ‘great’ or a ‘saint’ is beyond my comprehension. But, oh well. When Paul VI was the Pope there was a great deal of theological diversity and open discussion within the Roman Catholic church. John Paul ended that. Frankly, he was an international superstar, but an ecclesiastical nightmare to many. Me included.
The current Pope is as rigid as John Paul, probably more theological astute than John Paul, and unlike John Paul, may actually have a heart. John Paul demonstrated an almost callous indifference to abuse victims and people who disagreed with him. Benedict his showing a heart. Good thing.
But here are some points I don’t like.
First, I think that his concept of “truth” is way too narrowly defined to a very old brand of Roman Catholicism. There is much depth to much in Roman Catholic theology, but, sometimes, in practice, there is an almost superstitious silliness. His conceptualization on being ‘too’ Roman Catholic is that he really has diminished ecumenical exchanges.
Secondly, he is at least acknowledging the sexual abuse scandal. He has finally grasped that it is real and vile. (While a Cardinal under John Paul II he called this a media creation)
His acknowledgment is a good thing and a major step forward. The problem, however, is that there is a systemic problem within Roman Catholicism that no one will confront. Many have been trying to state that celibacy is not the problem-----but they are whistling in the dark on this one. They truly are. Additionally, the lack of women in the priesthood has also helped perpetuate the problem. It is not to say that denominations with married clergy and female clergy don’t have problems, they do. But you do not see the level of this kind of activity.
Thirdly, Pope Benedict has made all sorts of statements about gay priests being defective and, frankly, he probably was making reference to a staggering percentage of priests. He put them down and they really didn’t deserve this. Many of them have served God and served God’s Church very, very well and his words came as a dreadful shock to them. Part of the dilemma that the Roman Catholic church has faced is that they do have a large number of gay priests and, in their formation programs, do not provide the formation to enable these men to grapple with celibacy, etc.
Fourthly, he had a conference with all the Bishops a couple of years ago in Roman about Holy Communion. There was great excitement through many Christian circles because the Roman Catholic church and Holy Communion is a big deal. The Roman Catholic church has a closed table (which to me is a sin) and they close it off to other Christians who are not Roman Catholic, but also close it off to people who have been divorced and remarried. It’s interesting to note that NOTHING blocks a person from the table at my church, including a Roman Catholic who was divorced and remarried, but they are blocked from the table in their own church.
But I digress. Problems have tentacles. In any case, he convened this huge event and they talked about distribution of the wafers, how people held their hands in receiving, Holy Communion, etc. Nonsensical stuff.
I could go on, but I won’t. The more I see, the more I observe, the more delighted I am to be a part of the United Church of Christ.