Sunday, April 10, 2005

Responding to Comments: Pope John Paul II - take two

When I wrote my opinions about Pope John Paul II, I tried to differentiate between what I though of him as a man and what I thought of him as the leader of the Catholic Church. If most of the media was being overly critical of this Pope, I would have been the first to jump to his defense because I do think he was a very holy and good man. However, I also think he was only a fair to weak leader of the church that traces it’s leaders all the way back to Saint Peter. I also don‘t believe he should be considered one of the great Popes as he is being portrayed by almost everyone. To be honest, I don’t know if the other great Popes deserve to be labeled great either.

Let me be clear. I respect Pope John Paul II as a man. I think his personal behavior is exemplary, and I also think he has been a great role model of humble leadership. Personally, I am in agreement with most of the policies of Rome. I wasn’t trying to blame Pope John Paul II for anything that happened while he was Pope or before he became Pope. However, I did point out that as the leader of the Catholic Church he has not been successful or even very effective at dealing with the issues that seem to me should be most important to the Catholic Church and it’s leadership.

I believe that anyone who confesses their sins and then acts faithfully on the belief that Jesus is the Messiah will be in heaven. Therefore, I agree with both Jennifer and Teresa that Pope John Paul II is in heaven with our Lord where we also hope to be someday. However, I also believe most of the Popes will be in heaven with us because most of the Popes have acted faithfully in the name of Jesus.

Hammer seemed particularly irritated by my remarks as he scolded me for some of them. I probably don’t know as much about this Pope as Hammer does, but I can assure him and everyone else that I am not ignoring the record of this Pope. From my perspective, most everyone else is ignoring the complete record of this Pope.

Hammer claims this Pope is an equal to Reagan and Thatcher in ending Communism. I agree that Pope John Paul II deserves credit for standing with the workers in Poland, but that hardly makes him an anti-communist. He was also critical of Capitalists. If he was truly an anti-communist, he would have excommunicated all the bishops and priests who promote liberation theology which at it‘s core is no different from Marxism or Communism.

Pope John Paul II did receive a lot of press and a lot of attention for the number of young people who attended his events when he visited the United States. The numbers tell a different story. Catholics who regularly attend church went from 54% in 1975 to 45% in 2004. Ordinations of priests in the United States went from 771 in 1975 to 533 in 1985 and it was still at 533 in 2004. Throughout the entire world the raw number of Catholics has just about doubled in the last twenty-five years while the number of Catholics who attend church regularly and the number of ordinations has remained the same. Clearly, this is a problem that has not been effectively dealt with by the leaders of the Catholic Church.

Nowhere did I imply that Catholic Priests should be allowed to marry. In general, I believe most protestant denominations should become more like the Catholic Church, not the other way around. It is the Protestants, not the Catholics, who have the wrong ideas about celibacy.

Hammer also challenged me for my own solutions to the shortage of priests and the secularization of Europe. Challenging me for my solutions misses the point. I was not the Pope. The point was that this Pope did not seem to even have a plan for addressing these issues. Nowhere else in society would we call a leader great for ignoring the big issues and I don’t think we should treat this Pope any different no matter how good he was as a person and no matter how popular he was as the Pope.

Perhaps in future posts I will offer a few ideas for solving some of these problems and also expound about how celibacy should be treated by Christianity.

Almost daily, I visit and read the blogs of Jennifer, Teresa, and Hammer. All three of them are creative and informed writers. I appreciate the way they test and challenge me. Please give all of them a glance and leave an affirmative comment if you like what you read or a critique if you don‘t.


Hammertime said...

Well written. I think I wasn't clear in some of my comments:

While I fully support your right to disagree, the opinion of the majority of historians, world leaders and pundits is that the Pope was on par with Thatcher and Reagan. I'm with that group - and certainly there are a number who disagree. That's ok!

You were the second blogger to mention Liberation Theology to me, so I had to do some research. Liberation Theology seems to be almost exclusively a problem not to the Catholic Church as a whole, but to the Church in Latin America. Therefore, it seems more cultural than theological. I am admittedly weak on the details, but perusal of the info at hand did not really indicate that Liberation Theology was at odds with Catholic doctrine - it simply emphasizes things differently, i.e. the relief of the poor and oppressed over the personal relationship with God. I do, of course, disagree with the Catholic Church's emphases on several issues - but I had a hard time understanding why a cardinal/bishop would actually be removed for this.

I would guess that your percentages are for America, but wasn't sure. If so, your beef is with the American Catholic leaders - just as it should be with the high-profile but actually low-percentage (compared to the populace, as one in 890 straight people commits child molestaton) sex abuse scandal. That problem is linked to Western Culture, and especially American culture.

I guess I misinterpreted what you meant by "increasing the number of eligible men for the priesthood" the first time. All that makes one eligible is to be unmarried and willing to be celibate, as well as a desire to complete priestly training. Therefore, there would only be two ways to increase "eligible" prospects - let them marry or eliminate the training requirement. Both seem rather radical, and I'm not sure what else you meant.

Really, our difference is in what we think the role of the Pope is. You seem to ascribe to him the role of President or Prime Minister, where he sets "policies" to deal with the "big [international] issues" of the day, like militant Islam and terrorism. I believe his role is to lead the Catholic Church as a spiritual leader, as he is led by the Holy Spirit. The world already knows that the Catholic Church is opposed to all Muslims, not just militant ones, and that it is against all war, not just terrorism.

I actually didn't want you to come up with solutions - I just meant that, for the role of the Pope as I understand it, he isn't able to address most of the issues you mentioned.

Teresa said...

Thanks for the plug--love ya brother!