Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Pope, Piety and Popularity

After Pope John Paul II died in April 2005, a vacuum developed between the Catholic Church and its 1.131 billion Catholic membership worldwide. The assumption of the Papacy by Joseph Ratzinger, who chose the name Pope Benedict XVI, has done little to ease the sense of loss and displacement of Catholics in their faith that missed the comforting presence of John Paul II. The Church seemed distant, and the initial pronouncements of Pope Benedict XVI regarding changes in the conduct of the Holy Mass engendered a disconnection among many Catholics who find difficulty feeling the present Pope.

Pope Benedict XVI espouses fundamental Catholic practices of worship. His views and principles that promote orthodox Catholic teaching is an abrupt departure from the openness and liberalized methods that had been universally accepted as welcome changes. Practices which made the Holy Mass more participative, more open and involved, unified and adapted to local cultures, were ordered reversed to the traditional worship procedures. These include the priest with his back to the churchgoers, veils for women, and use of Latin. The impact of this order hit the entire Church membership instantly since it is where Catholics converge on Sundays. Confusion followed unanswered questions , and the hopes of the local Catholic leadership for ready compliance turned into disassociation.

Being the immediate successor to Pope John Paul II, comparisons may be unfair but unavoidable. John Paul II had a very friendly and approachable persona. He was a charismatic Pope who had the ability to inspire billions of members globally; the knack for rallying professionals, elderly, and working class Catholics to a regeneration of the faith; and the communication savvy to connect with the youth worldwide whose influence they embraced, whose words they absorbed, whose humanity they accepted and loved. His memory lives on in the youth whom he has touched spiritually and emotionally.

In contrast, Benedict XVI has a stern projection that can be daunting to those who want to reach out. As the present head and spiritual leader of the Catholic Church on Earth, his words and actions were taught to be infallible. This teaching no longer holds as much awe and wonder as it used to. His address at the University of Regensburg inappropriately used a 14th century Papal quotation that slammed the Muslim faith - causing protests from Muslims worldwide. The fiasco was done at a time when inter-faith harmony was being promoted.

The 6-day Papal visit to the United States, where 67 million Catholics (22% of the population) reside and whose practice of the faith differ widely with the tenets of conservative Catholic teaching, will test the Pope's diplomacy and will. Compared to Europe, America is largely conservative and he will find it more to his liking. Conservatives reign in America, from government, business and industry, Christian and Evangelical denominations, and the American population at large. But underneath this conservatism are legal practices that contradict Catholic tenets, where one remains a good Catholic despite having an abortion, using birth control devices, divorcing a spouse, remarrying, marrying someone of the same gender, changing of one's gender, and going to Church when convenient. These, he cannot undo. Also, he will have to face the issues regarding sexual abuses done by priests and nuns that undermined the moral authority of the Church and the faith itself.

The conflict within conservative America may have rendered the Catholic tenets irrelevant, and perhaps irreconcilable with their way of life. This lack of attachment has caused a serious disconnect between American Catholics and the Church. A purification of the practice of the faith is needed, one that will find agreement within their ranks and bring them in harmony and unity with all people in the world through God. But how can he reconcile unity with all men and love of God when God's teachings are disregarded and ignored? Would not retaining the contradictions in practice make the religion hypocritical and senseless? Are the contradictions beneath the veneer of conservatism in America manifestations of pretense and hypocrisy? If the Pope glosses over these contradictions, is he being hypocritical?

It is almost impossible to be a Catholic in a world so mired in untruth that is regarded as an angle of the truth or a version of the truth. If Jesus is the only truth, then the inter-faith harmony is seeking unity with a lie. If peace and co-existence is the goal, then Catholics are allowed to coexist in peace with a contradiction. This is what will perhaps reunite American Catholics with God and heaven, in making their bed for peace and coexistence, they can lie with a contradiction.



Tapline said...

Brad, Thanks for the indictment against the American Catholic Faith. I, not being Catholic can however find fault with that faith and it's dogma, period.... This is not just a Catholic concern, but any Christan faith. Our entire American Christan Faith is being attacked daily by the politically correct crowd. The government and the Courts have taken Christianity out of the public sphere, I say again,,,,Christianity,,, I don't think the Pope is going to address this.....He should, but,,,I doubt it. As far as putting Latin back into the mass. Thats great,,,no one understand what they're saying so If they get a blessing, I don't know how. When I was a kid,,,,Catholics did not have bibles....(the majority of them). The priest was the only one who could interprete the holy book,,,Maybe they will go back to that also. That will control the masses.. and the mass......I ramble. good post....stay well....

joanjoyce said...

i really like pope john paul 2 over the current pope wc is benedict. he (benedict)appears not to be someone to confide your problems with, no charisma, no trace of friendliness around him, unlike pope paul 2 he is really what all pope should be.

but liking pope paul doesn't mean that I believe in all catholicism for one God forbids on worshiping idols and saints but they are the 1st religion to practice it.

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Tapline,

Going back to Latin which no one understands will only alienate the Church more.

As it stands, those applying to become priests are getting fewer in number. The boyhood images of what priesthood is all about has lost it's former glitter. I remember seeing the film The Cardinal with Tom Tryon, who at the time was in a bind about abortion and whether to kill the baby by crushing its head or save the baby by birthing in an accepted procedure even if the mother bleeds to death in the process. It was a big deal then.

Today, it's as ordinary as apple pie. There are things that must be corrected about how the faith is interpreted or abused. But I wouldn't want to go so far as to make the Mass so mystical that it is understood only by the celebrant. There would be no point in going to Mass nor even calling it as such. :-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Joanjoyce,

Pope John Paul II did establish a bond with the youth which lives to this day, in the memories of those who were part of that movement when he was alive.

Not all Catholics believe in everything that the Catholic hierarchy teaches. And herein lies the problem. If it is to be one's faith, shouldn't one accept everything it teaches as a matter of faith? And if one is to teach faith, shouldn't the teachings be adapted and made relevant to the conditions under which it is taught?

Also, if there are contradictions in its history, shouldn't those contradictions be corrected first? This was the effort of John Paul II when he apologized to the Jewish people about Catholicisms passivity during the second world war.

Hypocrisy is the rust of faith, silence is its corrosion. The more they correct and amend, the better and stronger the Church will emerge. :-) --Durano, done!

Bradley Hankins said...

I think a pope is in a powerful situation. He can "control", well persuade, a large group of people in the world. He could help us all become buddies, and everyone would have a much peaceful time. I'm not Catholic, but someone chosen to be in such a high position in a faith organization such as Catholicism must be pretty good at his job.

Julia said...

John Lennon said it best:

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

btw... you've been tagged =)

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Bradley,


The Papacy is indeed a powerful position, and efforts at having an inter-faith harmony progress can be influenced by the Pope.

However, he should not alienate his own membership by reversals of things that they have began to adopt by way of worship, which is more attuned to their cultural and spiritual needs; something that they can identify with as a personal experience with God.

Going back to things "alien" and for which they cannot relate is a wrong move. Besides, it renders the action of the previous Pope as "errors" whereas they preach about the infallibility of the Pope.

What clout will he have if he does not obtain the wholehearted support of Catholics?

He is definitely very knowledgeable about his job as he was also the second in command during the previous Pope's 27 year reign. But remember, politics is not an alien thing in the Vatican and power plays and lobbying also take place. He may have brokered a lot of favors in the past to get himself elected Pope. That's a possibility.

But I'm with you for all faiths to have tolerance and acceptance of other religions, so we can live as one race, all connected, in this very small and problem filled planet that we continue to pressure to self destruct. :-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Julia,


How are things down under? Is this why you posted a comment, to tag me? How friendly is that? After all the entrecards I've dropped on you? How could you? LOL! :-)

I liked this John Lennon Song, it's Utopian but it's something to wish for. The world being united as One Race - Human.

Religion gets in the way too like what is currently happening. An analytical research done by CNN points to fundamentalist segments within Christianity, Islam, and Judaism as the more forceful and intolerant forces that push toward war.

No hell, no heaven, no fear, just love and peace, as Lennon proposes.

Then you tag me.... he he he . Okay, I'll probably do this by the weekend. :-) --Durano, done!

upyours said...

Hey Durano,
So true what you said about fundamentalist segments within different faiths. They usually comprise a small but noisy group, shrill, whiny and oftentimes dead wrong.
Your so-called "indictment", if it was one, was at best incomplete. It should have covered all Christian denominations, not just Catholicism. All they are are variations on the same bs theme. It's called multi-branding. Is Tide really different from Gain, or Clorox from store brands? I don't think so.
When the Constitution guaranteed the right to believe in any god, it likewise guaranteed the right not to believe in any god. Religion is best practised in private, because in the final analysis, religion is deeply personal and private. Somebody once said that "religion is what man does with his solitude". So keep thine religion to thyself.
What Pope Benedict is doing messing around with rituals is nothing but "product tweaking", trying to find a way for this tired lame fiction to sell better. It is certainly no better nor worse than the next fairy tale, Protestantism included.
Everybody should just STFU.

Julia said...

LOL sorry about the tag! You really don't have to do it if you don't wish to.

And yes, religion is the cause of too much war and pain and persecution.

Peace =)

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Upyours,

I can see the point in your arguments about the "product tweaking". I am very much aware of some of the fiction that Christianity has created and the methods that were undertaken to further embellish the facts. However, as you say, Religion is a private matter and many Catholics have gone on to practice their faith in private as they cannot reside confidence in the celebrants owing to the many scandals that have arisen about their behavior. Just the same, if they wish to practice their faith in a group as in a community, they are also free to do so.

As for writing about the other denominations, that would have made the post too long. I only wanted to focus the post on the Pope's US visit. The point being that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to be an American and be Catholic at the same time. :-)--Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Again Julia,

Come on. I was only kidding (although I'm not pregnant. LOL!)

I will do the meme before the weekend is over. Peace to you too.

Going back to Lennon, he may really have a point there, considering the chaos and troubles religion brings among different faiths today.:-)--Durano, done!