|I strongly suspect this time around the old men are in for a long drawn out Conclave.|
I have such mixed feeling about this current period in Catholicism. So mixed in fact, that I have not watched one second of television coverage at all, zero, zilch. My TV has not been on in three weeks. I'm not really sure I can articulate all these jumbled up feelings.
I can identify a few, one in particular. Pope Benedict/Cardinal Ratzinger has given me heart burn on more than one occasion. I don't mean heart burn in the TUMS sense. I mean heart burn in the painful sense. The one that triggers burning anger in my heart. Benedict managed to do it again with the Georg Ganswein situation. I don't particularly care what the specifics of Ratzinger's and Ganswein's relationship are, I care about the impunity with which Benedict has promoted Ganswein's career and furthered their relationship. I get that Benedict is hugely conflicted about his own sexuality, but he has not given a particularly worthy witness as to how one deals with such conflict. It is not done by promoting the object of your heart and creating positions for that object to stay in your presence. The fact that Ganswein is still to be the Prefect of the Papal Household absolutely undermines any statement of Benedict's that he will be 'obedient' to the next Pope. Right.. I can't name one other retiring head of a government who took his personal secretary into his household and also had that same secretary slotted to be the gatekeeper for his replacement. Maybe somewhere in some totally nepotistic company such a thing has occurred. That it will occur in Roman Catholicism is a huge statement about clerical nepotism and political infighting and just exactly why Benedict's ideas of loyalty are an insane way to run a global entity like the Church. Benedict's successor should assign Ganswein to a diocese right after he chooses his papal name. We would then see how far Benedict's vow of 'obedience' really goes.
On the other hand, I do truly believe that Pope Benedict has done a very necessary and culture changing thing. Resigning the papacy returns it to what it was intended to be, an office as first among equals, not another ontological magic step in which one personally receives the charism of infallibility. It's not true and never has been that the papacy is a personal coronation of one man to divine rule. I would hope the next Pope could further this truth by involving more of the People of God in his pronouncements and not acting as if he and he alone has the authority to make sweeping statements about topics for which Scripture has no answer nor any advice. No more JPII statements like Ordinatio Sarcedotalis which was purposely intended to tie the hands of any future Pope who might see the need to increase the priestly ranks by adding women.
So in the end I think Pope Benedict has done a very revolutionary thing by resigning, but I also think he has done a very retrogressive self absorbed silly thing with Georg Ganswein.
I do have some advice for the Cardinals about to go into Conclave and elect Benedict's successor. End Catholicism as the 'show me the money' religion. The younger generations are not swayed by the pomp and ceremony the 'show me the money' church has historically substituted for the real works of Faith. They want a 'show me the spiritual works" kind of church in which the personal discipline the Church teaches make some sense to the ears of twenty first century humanity. This is the core message of Jesus, love makes things happen, starting with love of God and love of self and extending that kind of healthy love out to others to change their circumstances. That kind of love sees others as we see ourselves. It does not condemn. It does not judge. It shows the Way by example. That example must transcend the usual ways we separate ourselves from each other. Sometimes that kind of love really does bend reality for the better. If our Cardinals continue to insist that traditional ritual practices buttressed with all the accoutrements money can buy is going to convert people, they do not have their fingers on the pulse of post modern consciousness.
I have no idea who the next Pope will be. Like everyone else I have my favorites, but I also know I am not the Author of the story of Catholicism. I'm only another of a billion+ of bit players. I do however believe that this is an interactive story and that the Author listens to his characters. I trust that this time around the Author will write some change into how the main characters conduct their roles in the plot line and at minimum the next Pope will work to end the corruption and put some accountability in the hierarchy. It is possible for a leader to set completely different expectations for collective behavior and that these expectations will stick. It does take time and a firm will, but in the end it is doable.
My feeling is that this Conclave is going to be longer than the talking heads think it will be and when all is said and done there are going to be some bruised feelings and more than one derailed career. Much of the needed battle between the old guard and the reformers will happen inside the Conclave and really, that's where it should play out. After all these guys all agreed this is the way the system should work. They need to play the game by the rules they all agreed to and not whine to badly if they come out on the losing side. I strongly suspect there will be major whining if the Sodano curia group or the Bertone curia group both wind up on the outside looking in. That would potentially be a spiritual work of epic proportions. Let the games begin.
I also want to send congratulations to Bill Lyndsey for his excellent blog Bilgrimage which has been selected by the Library of Congress for inclusion in it's internet archive on this period of transition between Pope Benedict and his successor. This is a well earned accolade. Congratulations Bill.