Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Papal Platform

Daniel Munz over at Politics and War made an important point amidst all the hubbub around what JPII did and didn't stand for.

I’ve seen the same phenomenon, writ larger, coming from both the left and the right: The Pope should have been more responsive to women’s needs; the Pope shouldn’t have been so suspicious of capitalism; the Pope should have been more sympathetic towards [random partisan cause/viewpoint]. Well, I’m here to say: Cut it out. None of this stuff is the Pope’s job, and the reason it’s not is the most valuable lesson liberals could possibly learn from his passing. Reading Linker’s piece, and listening to the left and right claim him for his own, something really odd started to emerge: They were all talking about the man as though he were a Senator, not a Pope.

Dan claims, and I agree up to this point, that

It is not his job to be maximally inclusive - as Linker puts it, to acknowledge that “[many] positions have moral weight” - or to represent everyone’s viewpoint or concern. It is his job to make pronouncements of Church doctrine, based solely on holy scriptures, his own moral intuition, and the divine guidance that is provided to him. Nothing more, nothing less, and no obligation to represent any viewpoint but his own.

But here's where we diverge, which you'll see in the comments. Of course the Pope is a politician, because anyone playing in his league has to be. But his real responsibility is to lead and protect the church based on those three elements (scripture, intuition, divine guidance). I don't know what God told the Pope about abusing pre-pubescent Catholics, but I'm guessing that He didn't say "Just look the other way, it'll blow over." As for condoms, it's not in the Bible, and you can even ask these guys.

People have since told me that, given the political realities of the Catholic Church, the Pope could never take a stand for condom use to prevent AIDS. But we know well how successful this very Pope was at subtly bypassing the Church's archaic dictates in favor of a more humanist approach. People told me, and I believed them for a while, that what the Pope said didn't matter to the ground operations of AIDS-relief organizations...but it did (and this link is from less than three months ago).

The bottom line is, the Bible gives him leeway to endorse birth control to prevent AIDS, and nothing excuses his pathetic response to sexual abuse within his ranks.

I admire JPII tremendously for his efforts and accomplishments, but in light of these failures I placed little faith in his moral intuition or his interpretation of scripture, and, obviously I don't think he and God were on the Nextel everyday.

Thought that would have been great fodder for one of those late-in-the-episode SNL sketches that beat a single half-formed joke to death over the course of fifteen minutes.


"John Paul, it's God."
"One second, man, I'm six minutes into my 8-min abs."
"You fat liar."
"Okay, I'm done. Did you page me before?"
"Shit." Boo-BEEP. Fuck, I don't know how to work this thing."


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