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The ordeal awaiting us – watching all and sundry pontificating on all matters Papal and religious

Must we endure the ‘experts’ on Catholicism?

By on Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Pope resigns

The Pope announced his intention on laying down his burden on 11th February, World Day of the Sick, feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The see of Peter will fall vacant at 8pm on Thursday 28th February. The Conclave will meet in mid-March, and if the modern trend continues, we may well have a Pope the next day – maybe 17th March will be the day. Thus so far the timetable is shaping up.

Naturally there were good reasons for the Pope to announce his resignation in advance. It gives people time to prepare, and it gives the Pope time to prepare for his departure from the Papal Apartment. It also means that the Cardinals, who must elect his successor, have an added two weeks to think, reflect and pray – or as some people would love to put it, to jockey for position, to intrigue and to campaign. And there lies the disadvantage of these two weeks and a few days: the media coverage, which abhors a vacuum, will do its best to fill this space.

This represents both a challenge and an opportunity for Catholics.

The challenge will be in having to watch the airwaves fill with a whole load of people who are very marginal to Church life, and yet who will be invited to pontificate on all matters Papal and religious, giving it their own particular slant, which they will advance as a mainstream view. I haven’t yet seen Hans Küng grace our screens, but he is just the sort of person I mean: a man whose theology is greatly at variance with what Catholics believe, and yet who will perhaps pop up as a Catholic expert. And yet we all, in a funny way, like Professor Küng, and we have grown used to him over the years. The milk of human kindness may however turn sour at the sight of the lawyer who was interviewed on Newsnight last night, a man who has apparently written a book about the Pope, and who seemed to promise, with his reference to General Pinochet, that the Pope could expect to be harassed in retirement by lawyers like himself wanting his arrest on unspecified charges. Whereas Professor Küng is a theological critic of the Pope, as is his right, this lawyer seems to be a professional Pope-hater, which is rather different. I fear we may see more of that.

But there is an opportunity too. The BBC has to maintain balance. So for ever Pope-critic or Pope-hater, there has to be someone who is Catholic, at least in theory. And here some excellent Catholics who get the call to appear on Newsnight and other programmes will have the opportunity to put the case for the Church – to let the Church appear as it really is, not as the professional Pope-haters would love it to be. We must wish them well in their task – for many of them it will be a descent into the lions’ den – and pray unrelentingly for them.

Incidentally, the Catholic commentators will have one huge advantage. The Papal election to come, even though it really only features a tin chimney pot as its only visible sign, really is the greatest show on earth. I am almost tempted to fly out to Rome and stand in that Square! But more on that another day.

  • Ronk

     Regardless of who becomes Pope, the choice is certainly not “the most important decision in the Catholic fait”, It’s not even a matter fo faith at all. The Catholic faith is unchangeable. They are merely choosing a leader. And what makes you think that no women on earth influence who they vote for? Either directly or through their prayers? And I’m sure Blessed Mary and all the women saints in Heaven influence them.

    Our Lord was not constrained by the cultural norms of “the period in history” when He made the free choice to appoint twelve men as His Apostles. EVERY religion in the known world at the time had priestesses, with the single exception of Judaism. If He was the type of man to meekly follow socxiety’s cultural norms, then He WOULD have appointed “Apostlesses” as well as Apostles.

  • Ronk

     I think the rules say the conclave cannot begin until at least 9 days after the Holy See becomes vacant.

  • Peter

    Catholics must break away from the notion of the Pope being a cult figure.  That myth has been shattered by the Pope choosing to abdicate.

    The cosy image of a Pope holding out till death, of a father figure remaining so till the very end, no longer applies.  But the insecurity that this causes is not a bad thing but a good thing.

    This challenges Catholics to stand up individually for their faith instead of relying on the Pope to carry the Catholic church on his shoulders on their behalf.

    The abdication of Benedict XVI is certainly a direct challenge to each and every Catholic to put their faith on trial and see if it passes the test.  

    God does not want lukewarm of cultural Catholics, but real Catholics who have the seed of faith within them.  This is the great test which will separate the wheat from the chaff.

  • Jonathan West

     Ah, I see. It isn’t the church which is misogynist, it is God!

  • Jonathan West

    My earlier version of this comment has disappeared into the ether.

    Once a person has been made a priest, then yes, it can never be made that he never was a priest. but the least the church can do is remove all aspects of the status and authority of a priest from the abuser, so that he has no further chance to use that status to abuse. “Restricted Ministry” is dangerous and at least one priest, Father David Pearce of Ealing Abbey, was placed on restricted ministry in a monastery and went on to abuse right under the nose of his own Abbot.

    And as for them being “on the loose” if they are “chucked out”, if the secular authorities are informed, then it is for them to supervise the abuser as appropriate. The church has shown that is untrained and utterly incompetent at that job, and to attempt is increases the danger to children.

  • LS121

    The Pope’s role is to act as leader of the Catholic faith and therefore the decision as to his appointment is indisputably relevant and critical to the faith. It is incorrect to say that the Catholic faith is unchangeable and does not evolve. I won’t list here the numerous doctrinal changes that have taken place in the last 10 years as I’m sure you are already aware of these developments. All Catholics will of course pray for the correct appointment however this appointment is not made through prayer alone but consultation and discourse. It is upon this point which I think women have the right to be more publicly involved.
    As Jesus was himself Jewish, a religion which you yourself have pointed out had a dominant male hierarchy it is of course unsurprising that the apostles as described in the orthodox Gospels are all male. However the Gospels also take great pains to outline the level of importance Jesus awarded women. Since the church formed many years after Jesus’s resurrection it is reflective of society that women do not hold such high positions within the church today.

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