Overestimating

Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano September 2015-1a.jpgThe celibacy kerfuffle continues to burn in the hearts and computers of some Catholics. I wonder if it’s not much less of a concern than some make it out to be. John Allen muses on it here, and I wonder if he’s three, four decades behind the times.

Those speaking out most loudly seem more interested in scoring political points than establishing the truth, and in the end, ordinary onlookers are left utterly unsure of what to believe.

Cardinal Sarah, and others, perhaps politics are part of it. A lot of ordinary onlookers, I suspect, look with amusement on a lot of it. Many Catholics have already decided what they think about optional clerical celibacy. For these people, it’s more about the players. Pope Francis is either bad or slow to change. The retired pope is either valiant or way behind the times. And others ask, “Who is Cardinal Sarah?”

From Mr Allen’s conclusion:

First, the affair can’t help but seem a blow to the Church’s credibility, since an impression has been left of power politics, infighting, and cynical manipulation.

Not so much.  I think credibility is already at an all-time low. This episode just reinforces beliefs about Pope Francis. The pope emeritus, we already know about.

Second, this situation is a reminder that the institution of a “pope emeritus” remains entirely new in the life of the Church, and there may be the need for some further reflection among canon lawyers, theologians and others on the role and functions of a retired pope, given that this is unlikely to be the last time we face such a scenario.

If we think of the pope as the CEO of True Christianity, then perhaps yes. If we see the figure as the Bishop of Rome, then the matter has a foundation in place. How do retired bishops function? Do they write books and teach? Do they move out of the cathedral dwelling? Are they assigned sacramental duties in the diocese? A good question would seem to be: How do they serve?

Third, the situation also would seem to beckon an examination of conscience among those who engage in public discussion about the Church.

What!? Be nicer. Less mean. Less political. That will take more than a roomful of popes, I fear.

Can we be a better, more attractive Church? Undoubtedly. That’s not coming from the top, but from the roots.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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