Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Progressive Perspectives on the Papacy (Part 3)

In the Vatican today the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church began their conclave to elect a new pope.

Here at The Wild Reed I continue a special papal conclave series dedicated to sharing perspectives that are not being presented in mainstream media coverage of events in Rome. Today's installment fits this bill to a tee! Read on and you'll see why.

Tom Cahill, the author of numerous books including How the Irish Saved Christianity and Pope John XXIII: A Life, was recently asked by The Wall Street Journal to write a piece that would begin, "The new pope should be ..." He submitted the following but it was turned down because, Cahill believes, the paper did not care for its "political implications" . . . which is perhaps another way of saying its 'progressive perspective'!

The next pope should be a Christian, that is, a genuine follower of Jesus Christ. Most popes have not been that, especially over the past millennium and more. Indeed, the idea of a Christian pope takes us so far from the historical norm that we must completely replace the images in our head with startling new pictures.

A real Christian would not wear special clothes nor would he live in a palace. Jesus had neither bank account nor art collection. He didn’t even have a home to call his own, for as he said to one inquiring contemporary, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). “The Son of Man” was Jesus’s usual description of himself. It was not intended as an exalted description nor even as a special designation. A better translation might be “Humanity’s Child,” in other words, a plain human being. The new pope would live among the poor, as Jesus did, perhaps even be homeless on occasion.

The new pope would not enjoy being addressed by special titles, nor would he wish to be called “pope” (or “papa”). Gregory the Great, elected bishop of Rome toward the end of the sixth century, was one of the few truly great popes. He refused to be called “pope,” saying “Away with these words that increase vanity and weaken love!” A bishop, insisted Gregory, should be ever “a minister, not a master,” who tries “to subdue himself, not his brothers and sisters.” The only title Gregory would accept was “Servant of God’s Servants.”

If he is a true Christian, the new pope will "hunger and thirst for justice" for all, as Jesus recommends in his great Sermon on the Mount. Of course, with that kind of attitude we can only expect the new pope to get himself into enormous international trouble. Perhaps even more trouble will come his way if he feels called to be a peacemaker, another of Jesus' recommendations, trying to make peace among those who are at war with one another. Of course, he will need to start with his fellow Christians.

The new pope would make no distinction among categories of persons. He wouldn’t care whether one was Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or a non-believer. Jesus obviously didn’t care about such things, since he made his great example of human goodness a Samaritan, one of those unthinkable heretics, whom all the upright of Jesus’ time despised. But the Good Samaritan halted his journey for the sake of rescuing a mugged man whom none of the conventionally “good” people wanted to help. Let him bleed to death on the side of the road, they shrugged. No, said the Samaritan, let me take care of him till he recovers. In this way, the new pope would be like his greatest predecessor, John XXIII, who made no difference between one set of believers (or non-believers) and another.

If the new pope is a true Christian, we will probably crucify him.

NEXT: Part 4

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Progressive Perspectives on the Papacy (Part 1)
Progressive Perspectives on the Papacy (Part 2)
Why Jesus Is My Man
Beyond Papalism
Casanova-inspired Reflections on Papal Power - at 30,000 ft.
Quote of the Day - July 24, 2012
What It Means to Be Catholic
No Patriarchal Hierarchy, No Rigid Conformity
Rome Falling
Re-Forming "the Vatican" Doesn't Mean Destroying the Church
Pan's Labyrinth: Critiquing the Cult of Unquestioning Obedience
What the Vatican Can Learn from the X-Men
Roger Haight on the Church We Need

Recommended Off-site Links:
Black Smoke Signals No Pope Elected at First Conclave Vote – Crispian Balmer and Philip Pullella (Reuters via Yahoo! News, March 12, 2013).
We Need a Pope Able to Think, Willing to Learn – John Wijngaards (National Catholic Reporter, March 12, 2013).
Papabile Rumors and Keeping Perspective About the Conclave – Bob Shine (Bonding 2.0, March 12, 2013).
Will the Next Pope Be Eco-Friendly? – Brian Roewe (National Catholic Reporter, March 12, 2013).
As Cardinals Gather to Elect Pope, Catholic Officials Break Into a Sweat Over News That Priests Share €23m Building with Huge Gay Sauna – Michael Day (The Independent, March 11, 2013).

Image: Liz Lemon Swindle.

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