Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Pope's Responsibility to Europe

I will admit that I was not hoping for a Ratzinger papacy. I've always had a soft spot for the underrepresented and the underdog (of course these two are usually the same). As such, I really wanted to see a new pope from Africa or Latin America. After all, once you have seen the voracious faith practiced in these lands, is it possible to imagine a world in which the Catholic world is ruled by another European???

Despite my hope for one of the burgeoning centers of catholicism to gain a pope that could evoke feelings of both religious and cultural pride, I am even more dismayed by the fact that Europeans have such a feeling of entitlement to the pope and the Catholic Church. After all, Europe, as much as I adore it, is becoming more agnostic by the day. Cardinal Ratzinger's admonitions against relativism fit Europe like a glove. So why are we hearing a repetive chorus that the election of Pope Benedict XVI will fail to "re-convert" Europe's catholics? Of course he will, so the question that remains is "Who cares?".

Obviously, religious leadership is not designed to preach to the choir, but the complaints that the new pope will not satisfy Europe sound like the cries of a spoiled child. Europe has held the papacy for many, many centuries. Sadly, inertia and proximity to the Vatican leave it in a position of unjustifiable power. Instead of appreciating this power, it appears that Europeans would prefer the Pope change his religious views in order to placate them.

I have no desire for a conservative or liberal pontiff. I do, however, believe that the Catholic Church is capable of making its moral judgments without the benefit of public polls or public pressure. I do not believe the pope, nor any other religious leader, EVER speaks with infallibility, but I DO believe that the Church would benefit much more by listening more to its audiences in Latin America and Africa than its spoiled believers in both the U.S. and Europe.


Srdjan Cvijic said...

I think that the next Papcy will almost surely be or from Latin America or from Africa (this one is according to many observers destined to be short, maybe not like that of John Paul I, but short), but I am not really convinced that that would bring an automatic benefit for the people of these countries...are you, and if yes, why so? But I think you were speaking more from the perspective of the Church? Meaning that it would be better for the church "listening more to its audiences in Latin America and Africa than its spoiled believers in both the U.S. and Europe"...

Scott M. Sullivan said...

You're right, Srdjan, in that I don't believe that having a pope from Latin America or Africa will inherently help those peoples. Ironically, I believe it may help the people of the U.S. and Europe. It will change the way they view the leader of the Catholic Church from "one of us" to a "them". By this, I mean that it will wrench the ownership of the papacy from the traditional western world and open the eyes to the U.S. and Europe that the primary (as in most visible) Christian leader could come from a place other than their own womb.

Raphaƫl Paour said...

But the previous Pope, when he was... elected into office, was not from the western world. Wasn't it a shock to see a Polish Pope come into power Europe and the States ? I do't remebre how the news was taken.

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