The Dope on the Pope

Maybe – as a lot of people have said – it’s not such a bad thing that Ratzinger is pope. Maybe we should all be rejoicing, and singing Te Deums and lighting candles and pretending to see baby Jesus on our pizza. Maybe he’ll wake a few dozy people up to what the Catholic church is and what it’s for and what it’s about. It’s not a pretty silk brocade and red velvet backdrop for a sweet old guy who wanders the globe ‘blessing’ people, and it’s not the best place to look for social justice or equality or critical thinking or – much of anything good, really. At least nothing that I can think of. Just ask anyone who grew up in Ireland a few decades ago, for a start. The priest was more like a local tyrant than anything else. And then there were those prisons for girls who – well, you know. For girls who even looked as if they someday might, in some cases. Extraordinary stuff – and not very long ago.

So maybe Ratzinger will remind people of this obvious reality. Maybe the US media will stop talking about the pope as if he were a combination of Mr Rogers and Doctors Without Borders. Maybe people will get a clue, or a grip, or both.

Items like this one should help.

”It would be hard for any Catholic editor not to say, ‘Well, if this happened to ‘America’ magazine, perhaps it could happen to others,’ ” said the Rev. Pat McCloskey, the editor of St. Anthony Messenger, a 311,000-circulation Franciscan monthly based in Cincinnati. ”I’m afraid that a move like this one will cause more and more Catholic thinkers to say that they want to write for publications that are not identified as Catholic and to teach at schools that are not identified as Catholic, because there is more freedom there.”

Well, yes. If it’s freedom, especially freedom of thought, you want, a Catholic anything is not the best place to look for it or expect it, is it. Freedom is not (to put it mildly) what the Catholic church is about.

On the other hand of course it is a bad thing, because since the Catholic church is not going anywhere anytime soon, it would be good if it could change and reform and become better than it is. But it would be even better if everyone would just up and leave.

”A lot of people were unhappy with ‘America,’ including people in Rome,” said the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of First Things, a New York-based journal on religion. He said he knew many Catholics, including bishops, who were unhappy with Reese’s stewardship of America, which, he said, ”had kind of a carping attitude toward the pontificate of John Paul II. Just as you don’t expect Planned Parenthood to give a platform to the prolife position, there’s no reason why a Catholic journal should provide a platform for positions that are clearly contrary to those of the church…”

Yup. So go write for secular magazines and teach at secular schools. Pope-free zones are easier on the nerves.

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