Poison and Elections

This is not a post about American politics, despite my headline. Jimmy Mac sent me this link to Vatican Insider, and he’s right: the headline is precious:

Bertone leaves poisonous atmosphere in Vatican to visit hospitalised children

“Precious” is my word. For the record.

But it brings to mind an important challenge for people in authority in the Church. Pope Benedict is the Bishop of Rome. It is his job, if not his ministry to do what a bishop is supposed to do in his diocese. I’ve known bishops who confirm adolescents, guide the formation of clergy, visit the sick, and the like.

But here are some questions to consider for the pope and all his cronies in the halls of the curia:

  • Do they celebrate viaticum with the dying?
  • Do they anoint the sick in hospitals, care facilities, and hospices?
  • Do they visit prisons?
  • Do they preside at the funeral rites for someone not a cardinal? If a priest of the diocese of Rome dies, who by the Church’s understanding, is a son of his bishop, does his “father” get involved?
  • Do they do it out of the public eye? (“Oh, look at the pope! He’s baptizing all those cute babies in the Sistine Chapel!”)

Maybe you can think of a few more.Many priests with whom I’ve spoken tell me these “humble” activities are meaningful to their ministry in the Church. More meaningful than audiences, committees, rubbing shoulders with rich muckety mucks, and the like. Maybe the poisoned atmosphere spoken of and generally conceded these days is due in part because the clergy of the curia are unhinged from the full range of ordained ministry. They serve the Church, sure. But their service is a self-imposed distortion of Holy Orders.

Jim also sent me another link a few days ago on the proposal that the world’s bishops select the pope–not the college of cardinals.Toward the end of the link, historian Alberto Melloni weighed in:

Expanding the electoral base in that sense emphasizes the centralism of the papacy and alters the link with the Roman Episcopal see. Let us not forget, however, that the Pope is the Pope because he is the Bishop of Rome, not the other way around.

Too right. There’s more:

Giving cardinals the right to elect the Pope accentuates the Roman character of the papacy. Even if they are bishops of residential sees throughout the world, the cardinals are electors of the Pope because they are heads of the Church of Rome. Giving voting power to the bishops and superiors of religious orders would distort this essential characteristic of the papacy, linked to the Roman Episcopal see.

Professor Melloni adds that if the numbers of electors were expanded, better to include the clergy and laity of Rome. They are the ones much more entitled to choose their bishop. What an idea.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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