Goodbye to A Great Man...
Watching the funeral of Pope John Paul II this morning, I was struck by an intense sadness, both at the passing of the man and at the apparent passing of tradition.
In the week prior to my main man shuffling off this mortal coil, the talking heads were all a-buzz about the possibility of the catholic Church changing it's doctrine and dogma to more easily conform to our ever-increasing secular society. To hear it, one would think that the biggest obstacle to changing an institution long in need of an overhaul was JPII Himself. You could almost see the salivation around the mouths of ex-hippy nuns, sort-of-but-not-quite-disgraced ex-priests, the usual crowd of loonies representing euthanasia, abortion and gay rights, as they plotted the new assault against the one institution that has, thus far, resisted their efforts.
A lot of chatter about married priests. More balloon juice about women priests. A slew of verbal diarrhea about the Church softening it's stand on brith control. Lot's of talk about a church that is expanding in the Third World electing a third-world Pope for the sake of diversity. It was disgusting to watch. The man wasn't even dead yet and they were already circling like vultures. When he finally died, then the nasty stuff came out. John Paul II, to these idiots, was the biggest impediment to true human utopia since Josef Stalin.
I'm not a theologian, and granted, I'm not even a practicing Catholic. But, I was brought up in the Church, educated in it's schools, and from where I sit, there's nothing wrong with it from the standpoint of what the Church preaches. Sure, there is a mess to be cleaned up in several areas: priests molesting children, the lack of parish priests, getting the laity more involved. These are issues of management, not doctrine.
Why should priests be married? Catholic doctrine states that a married priest has divided loyalties and thus, cannot serve God to his fullest potential. Becoming a priest is voluntary; there are no Shanghai gangs sitting in front of seminaries waiting for hapless victims to impress into service. If the argument is that a married priest is far less likely to turn to children for sexual gratification, then guess again. Pedophiles come in all colors -- even married. If the argument is that allowing priests to marry increases the likelihood that more young men will turn to the church as a career, because they will not have to sacrifice their personal happiness, then that cuts no ice, either. The main thrust of Catholic theology is sacrifice for the benefit of others in the name of love. What greater and more meaningful sacrifice could one make then to forego the happiness of marriage and family for the sake of serving others?
Female priests? You have a better chance of catching Jesus at the craps tables in Vegas. Two thousand years of precedent says no. But, the naysayers will point out, there are too few priests to administer to the faithful, why not allow women in to expand the available pool of labor? Considering that there are getting be just as few nuns as there are priests, I don't see the logic in the argument. In the last 40 years, between feminism, the sexual revolution, improving western economies, the "Me" generation of the 60's and 70's, women nowadays are more likely to take a career as a stripper (excuse me, exotic dancer, for the politically correct) than they are to join a convent. Modern, western women, in case no one noticed, sacrifice nothing for the benefit of others, unless they find themsleves in the unfortuante situation where they made the "wrong" choice to keep that bundle of cells until it was born. The last two crops of women have been brought up to believe they can have everything handed to them if the scream loud enough or withhold sex. Not exactly promising material for a future priesthood.
Gay priests? I don't have a problem with gay priests, per se. The problem is a gay priest unable to control himself. That's a human failing, not a structural one within the church.
At the end of the day, all these complaints about the sorry state of the church and JP II's role in creating them are merely extensions of the selfishness prevalent in modern society. The church made overtures to the wishes of society in Vatican II, and you can see where we wound up. The issue is not that he chucrh needs to change, but that society needs to. Crying that because ti won't ruins it for all the faithful on the planet is a massive case of sour grapes.
From where I sit, this church is in awesomely good shape, as far as what it offers to people. When 4 million-plus people show up for the funeral of man who's now being dragged through the mud by those who do so with no fear of retribution, that tells me more than their diatribes do. The amazing thing was the incredible number of younger people present. Despite what secular society tells them they're supposed to do, these young kids connected with this older man, this so-called dinosaur of tradition.
The Church was here long before John Paul II, and will survive his passing, lessened in leadership, I think, but still having more to offer than Survivor and American Idol. JP II, after all, is a hard act to follow. But what has been lost is merely a great leader, not the mission. This is not the time to tear down what the man built, but perhaps to sit back and appreciate it all the more.
God rest his soul and keep him in peace.