Wednesday, February 13, 2013

After Benedict, what for the Catholic Church?

The man who had the thankless task of following the greatest religious leader of our lifetimes, and the thankless task of trying to steady a ship beset by storms of corruption, sex scandal, and social moral decay, Pope Benedict is stepping down almost immediately. He is approaching ninety years old. I think he has served his flock and God well and it is a wise decision.

There is a prophecy from Saint Malachy in the middle ages that indicates the next Pope will be the last Pope. God only knows. But the way things are going, the Cardinals may have a hard time finding anybody willing to do the job eventually.

Many are saying that Vatican II marked the beginning of the end for the Catholic Church. It was a massive reform of the Church's relationship to the world that occurred in the sixties, bringing the Mass out of Latin and into English (or whatever local language) and directing Catholics more toward the Bible and less toward the Catechism. The critics believe that the reform weakened the Church's role in the world, making it more secular, less spiritual, and now we are reaping what was sown then.

I disagree. Though I very much appreciate the traditional mass and the Church's historical posture, I think considering how society has changed in the past fifty years - not in a good way - it was the only move the Church could make to stay relevant.

The important thing to remember is that a religion is made up of people, not God. Though the Catholic Church has a special place in the world as Peter's church, direct from the mandate of Jesus, it is not Jesus. It is just  imperfect, original-sin-bearing mankind's best collective effort to intermediate between God and humanity.

I think the real threat to the Church, especially in the U.S. where all its money comes from, is twofold. One, as the free love, drugs, and rock & roll movement of the sixties made celibate priesthood less and less attractive, the Church relaxed its standards and let in a large amount of defective people as priests. Hence the homosexual pedophile problem that has cost the Church billions, ruined countless young lives via the sex abuse, and left parishes desperate for priests. Not to mention turned countless people away from the Church in disgust.

Secondly, as pastoral leadership has waned and Pope John Paul II's strong hand left the tiller, Marxist influences have waxed strong. "Peace and Justice," that seemingly innocuous phrase that is code for wealth redistribution and the whole welfare state mentality, has popped up as a major theme of lay groups like Why Catholic and the like. John Paul II understood well the threat of socialism, having lived behind the Iron Curtain for decades before becoming Pope. He would not tolerate leftist political activism among his priests, scolding one publicly one time in South America for just that.

But the leftists who held quiet within the ranks through John Paul II's long papacy are now a gathering storm poised to undermine the core values of the Church. If the Church has led unwaveringly in nothing else, it has at least held strong on abortion... until Obama came along with Obamacare, and the Church embraced him despite his proven track record supporting even late term abortions without restraint. Now the Church is shocked, shocked I tell you, to find out that Obamacare forces them to support abortion and contraception through the insurance programs of their health and education institutions. Soon it will be same sex partners and so on. They made a deal with the Devil, and now payment is due.

I am the best of Catholics and the worst of Catholics. As a cradle Catholic, I have sometimes been like a kid who inherits a wealthy life from his parents and hasn't had to work for it, so doesn't really understand the value of money. For a while I didn't consider myself Catholic, or a believer, at all. But in recent years my faith has become stronger than ever. I found a parish and priest I really liked and it helped strengthen my family and my faith.

Unfortunately the priest had the boneheaded idea of passing an anti-gun petition around the church and I felt compelled to resign from the parish! I do not go to church for political activism. I go to find my way better to God. Fortunately the word catholic means "universal". And the Catholic Church is indeed a big tent. There is room for a lot of different ways to get to God. But there should never be room for the Godlessness of secular politics. I have already found another parish.

But again, it is a church made up of people. Whether this is the last Pope or not, he better be a good, strong Pope, because the people are all about worshipping anything but God these days.

I don't envy him.

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