With the shocking abdication of Pope Benedict XVI, the past weeks have been filled with absolutely ridiculous speculation by the mainstream media on the future of the Church and, as ABC’s World News put it, “Americans hope for a new direction.” The Church has been rocked by scandal and “filth” (Benedict’s words) for the past decade and is certainly not without its institutional shortcomings, but the theology of the Church-in other words, the divinely revealed Truth of the faith-ought not to be in question.
Benedict’s unexpected announcement came on the heels of revelations concerning cover-up of pedophile priests in the Archdiocese of LA by Roger Cardinal Mahony, the former archbishop. This prompted widespread speculation that the Pope was resigning ahead of bombshell accusations concerning his personal involvement in the systematic evasion of justice by prelates both in the U.S. and abroad. The viciously liberal and anti-Catholic media wouldn’t buy the fact that the Pope, who in recent images doesn’t exactly convey as a spring chicken, is tired and in failing health. Keith Olbermann’s successor as primetime hysteric, CNN’s Piers Morgan, tweeted a snide comment to the effect that “popes don’t resign because they’re tired.” For those of you who didn’t know, Piers is evidently all-knowing.
The media has bigger fish to fry, however. The Vatican’s continued holding of traditional moral teachings in a post-modern era makes the Church a constant target of derision and ridicule in America’s elite salons. When in 2005, Pope John Paul II died after a 26-year papacy, the media clamored for a more “democratic” and “liberal” Church, co-opting American political frameworks and imposing them on the Church. Commentary on whether the Church would cease to advocate for the traditional and the most vulnerable and embrace the secular worldview abounded. The fact that Terri Schiavo’s torturous death had preceded the great John Paul II’s by mere days provided fodder for speculation as to whether, under a new pope, the Church would allow men to remarry and pull the plug on their wife, in addition to allowing abortion of a full-term pregnancy. National Public Radio found the prospect of a “new” Church so irresistibly titillating that its “expert panel” on the future of the Church included noted “theologians” from every dissenting “Catholic” group known to man, including the president of NARAL.
In other words, in 2005, the American media was expecting the Roman Catholic Church to fold into the Episcopal Church and govern itself through pop culture and voting, and when the Pope’s “Rottweiler,” Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, the media was bitterly disappointed. Now that His Holiness Benedict XVI has flown off into the sunset and the sede vacante has commenced, the media quarterbacking will reach a fever pitch.
The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne, a Catholic, led the start of the asininity by proposing that a nun-or group of nuns-be elected Pope. Because no obedient women religious would ever endorse such a notion, inasmuch as the pope is successor of Peter and therefore male, Dionne is clearly thinking about a “Nuns on the Bus” type that opposes every Catholic social teaching save for the preferential option for the poor, trading the Catechism for an American political platform. Maureen Dowd chimed in with support for women priests and the absurdity of Mary as Virgin. Dionne, Dowd et al., raises the alarm that the Church risks irrelevancy if “change” is not forthcoming with respect to Catholic social teaching. Clearly the punditocracy hasn’t been to a campus Newman Center or CUA or Franciscan University lately. Student participation in the Faith on campus is growing each year, at both public and private colleges, and these students are returning to orthodoxy after a childhood suffering the consequences of the Baby Boomer’s failed social experiments with free love and no-fault divorce.
At Mass this weekend, the priest gave a very salient homily having to do with Lent and the conclave. He asked, “If you could put on a red skullcap and vote in the conclave, would you elect a “liberal” or a “conservative” as pope?” Father spoke of how American Catholics and the media are clamoring for change, holding the absurd notion that a cardinal can simply trade his red hat for a white one and voila, we have theological and/or doctrinal change in the Roman Catholic Church. Perhaps what must change, he continued, is not the Church, but us. Perhaps instead of pushing our agenda, we ought to pray for God’s will. More importantly, however, the Church is not concerned with the temporal. The Church is ordered towards the divine, the eternal, the Truth. As such, it cannot be governed by the framework of American democracy.
Lent invites us to conversion, leaving our sins behind us and turning towards Christ. If Christ is the leader of the Church, and Christ (as we know) is perfect, then it is us that much change, for if Christ is our leader, His Church is perfect. We all have our favorite sin, whether it be pornography, greed, lust, gluttony, support of intrinsic evils such as abortion or gay marriage-you name it, we do it. The media’s clamoring for change, our clamoring for “change” or “modernization” reflects our refusal to turn towards Christ, instead pushing the Church to accept our sins. I am, as all of us are, a sinner. But if we banish the word “sin” from culture, what are we left with but an empty culture and existence?
Maybe the timing of Benedict XVI’s resignation during Lent, a time for conversion, ought to give us pause. It is time for us to realize that if we confess Catholicism and the Truth and the Faith, then it is up for us to change for the Church, not the other way around.