Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Let's Close This Cafeteria

The unexpected resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has brought forth the expected plethora of pundits expounding on exactly who should be named to replace the pontiff. This of course is not surprising. It’s analogous to what went on when Andy Reid was fired as the Eagles’ coach after a 14-year run.

Sports talk show hosts were inundated with names of once and future coaches that the fan base put forth, ad nauseam, on a daily basis. Underlying all the speculation was the certainty that the team’s ownership would name whomever it thought was the best available choice, fan approval notwithstanding.

No educated fan would dare to believe that an owner would actually poll his season ticket holders to see exactly who he should hire. Football fans—despite the widely-held rowdy stereotype—have enough sense to realize this. Not so, apparently, with many Roman Catholics, if any of the man-on-the-street interviews published in the Philadelphia Inquirer are an indication.

                Some of the remarks:
                “I think it’s time to name a pope from Latin America…they should name one of ours. They’ve only named Europeans until now.

                “If I had my way, an African should be the next pope. …we have a black president. So let’s just feel the impact of a black pope.”

                “I hope the next pope will be a little more liberal and consider allowing …women to become priests. …part of the reason the Church is losing its members (is because) they’re not listening to the people.”

                Really? They’re not listening to the people? Real Catholics—those of us who have been thoroughly schooled in the faith—know from countless classes in religion, catechism, Bible history, and theology, that the pope is the vicar of Christ on Earth. He stands in the “shoes of the fisherman,” i.e. Simon-Peter, upon whom Christ established his Church.  {Matthew 16:18}.

                Christ charged the Apostles with spreading his good news. He didn’t send them forth to gather opinions like a dozen survey-takers marching through a large mall, each with a clipboard in order to “listen to the people.”

                Quite the opposite, if Scripture can be utilized as a guide:
                “Going therefore, teach ye all nations…teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. {Matthew 28:19-20}

                “If you love me, keep my commandments. {John 14:15}

                Jesus of Nazareth laid down the rules very clearly. The pope, as his spiritual descendant should not—cannot—veer from those directions now, checking the latest fad in acceptable popular behavior, so he can deviate from Christ’s original intention for the sake of making the Church more “suitable” to today’s culture.

                Jesus called them commandments, folks; not suggestions. And his Church has endured for 2,000 years, despite the immorality, criminality, and deviancy of some of its members. He did, after all, leave his Church in the hands of imperfect beings.

                And that Church has had a line of successors to Simon-Peter that stretches through the centuries, past Constantine, Muhammad, Charlemagne, Marco Polo, Gutenberg, Columbus, Michelangelo, Luther, Calvin, Copernicus, Galileo, Bach, Jefferson, Lincoln, Marx, Einstein…

                That line will continue with Benedict XVI’s successor. I hope and pray it’s a man who continues the policies of Jesus, and not someone who takes a popular referendum from his flock to see where they want him to take “their” church. I rather it be someone who steers Christ’s Church—the one he founded two millennia ago.

                Catholicism is not a religion for wimps. It doesn’t bend and flex to suit the current cutting-edge in fashion or philosophy. As a priest once told me, “Jesus’ teaching is the same now as it was in 1948.”

                Or in 48, for that matter, shortly after he told the multitudes to “Enter at the narrow gate…for wide is the gate and broad is the way to destruction…”

                The new pope cannot “listen to the people” in a pseudo ‘reverse’ Sermon on the Mount, to find out where he should take the Church.

                Today’s cafeteria Catholics (those who ‘pick-and-choose’ what Catholic dogma they’ll follow) will no doubt encourage him to widen the gate beyond all measure. Some may want it damn near wide enough to drive a bus load of atheists through.