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 Blooming Stars

Papal Dynamics – 3

            Besides the sexual abuse scandal, there are other problems such as the contentious birth control debate, gay and lesbian issues, homosexual unions, women’s issues including their ordination to the priesthood, married priesthood, stem-cell research and the whole field of medical ethics, divorce and re-marriage, vocations to priesthood and religious life, and the exodus of Catholics to other less enlightened religious denominations, and above all listening to the serious concerns of ordinary Catholics that Pope Benedict failed to address. With an a-priori academic, rigid mind-set, and an authoritarian, autocratic approach, Pope Benedict XVI did not have the openness or the psychological mindedness to deal with real problems in the real world. Even theologically and spiritually he needs to have known that we need to let go all pre-conceived ideas about faith and even God so God, the Pure Energy, can come into us and become the In-dweller (Vasudev). This indwelling is nothing but the Pure Gift of Grace. This is what all the dignitaries in the Catholic Church ought to know. Of course from this Pure Gift of Grace proceeds good works for others because we are all one humanity in the One God.

            Pope Benedict’s final significant decision of resignation is progressive, and appears to come; I would like to think, from his long dormant liberalism. It is all the more important since he, a conservative, made it. It certainly gives fresh life and new hope to the immediate Church. It will help in ushering the Catholic Church into the modern era. Many more things like democracy, equality, and freedom are needed to launch the Church into the modern era and the Kingdom of God. They will come down like an inevitable avalanche crushing the ramparts of the official authoritarian autocratic Catholic Church that has nothing to do with the Universal Catholic Church of all the members and the spirit of Christ. But the resignation of papacy, the bastion of autocratic authoritarianism is a start. It certainly takes into account the ground realities of a Church that needs to live in the modern world.

            This one decision of Pope Benedict is certainly a redeeming act in that it begins to demystify the papacy. This may be considered to be the greatest contribution to a lackluster and almost disastrous papacy that went nowhere. I am sure this one decision took the conservatives by surprise. He gave credibility to the idea of a pope’s resignation. No serious reform of the church took place under his watch. He also turned the clock back on the second Vatican Council that ended in 1965. In the minds of many progressive theologians, the second Vatican Council was only a beginning of reforming a Church lost in the dark, cruel, and barren desert of the middle Ages. Pope John Paul II in his long papacy wasted his moral capital and kept the Church limping with his so-called charism. Pope Benedict XVI did not have that charism and not much of moral capital. His energy was already spent under John Paul II in blocking progressive theologians and upholding conservative and absolute traditional values in a relative world.

            An apt metaphor might be that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI spent all the ammunition trying to shoot a flying bird with a static gun. They could not accommodate fast and vast changes in the modern world. The teachings of Christ are valid for all times. But the application of these perennial values changes according to changing conditions and times. They were not visionaries. They were not able to see the signs of the times. They were not able to adapt according to the changing times. That is where they went wrong. Any good driver knows that any driving has to be adjusted to the road conditions: heavy rains, cloud bursts, avalanches, snow, sleet, pot-holes, sudden flooding. They were not able to do that.

            Intelligent as they were, they surrounded themselves with conservative and ultra-conservative clergy and made the mistake of thinking that they had absolute, unchallenged authority from Christ, and that they had answers to all the problems facing the Church. Relying on their out-dated concepts of supremacy and infallibility, they used the official machinery to appoint persons who toed their line of thinking as bishops and cardinals to important positions in the Church. Supremacy and infallibility were ill-suited to a servant-Church missioner to serve and not to be served. They only denoted pomposity and separateness that kept disagreements and spawned fruitless debates. Instead of bringing persons together they drove wedges among them and separated them. They demanded absolute obedience and submission from the vast majority of Catholics who are mostly naïve and unthinking, and accepted their pronouncements uncritically as part of their faith and routine trust in Church authority.


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