Saturday, April 02, 2005

He appears to be near his earthly end...

Vatican says Pope starting to lose consciousness

While I'm hardly the biggest fan of either his church or his pontificate, as a fellow human being and one of the precious few truly international figures in our age to speak frequently on behalf of the rights of the unborn, I think John Paul II deserves our prayers, whatever our spiritual loyalties may lay.

I did find an interesting comment in one article pertaining to the Pope's impending death, relating specifically to John Paul II's legacy. It was a comment by a spokesman from a Mosque in Geneva, which I think deserves some comment...

Hafid Ouardiri, spokesman for the Geneva mosque, said Muslims would remember the Pope's efforts "for peace and dialogue among communities."

But he also added: "It seems to us that there was a personality cult surrounding Jean Paul II that was close to idolatry, which for a Muslim is a sin. The Pope has taken too big a place compared to the church, and that's damaged him."
(full article here)

The funny thing is, I think there is some truth to this Muslim's comments, though my agreement obviously comes from a very different place (and not from the antiseptic unitarianism of Islam). While the "cult" (so to speak) of the Pope has long been quite big in the Latin west (given the centrality of the Pope in Roman Catholic ecclessiology), in the pontificate of John Paul II it has grown immensly. I think in many ways, this is reflective of general trends throughout the Roman Catholic Church. Even at the lay level, the "cult of personality" in relation to the presiding priest has grown significantly since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Where as there was a time where the priest was quite internchangeable (it was the Mass which itself was central - whether Fr.Jones or Fr.Williams said it really made little difference), this now seems to be less so. Less depends upon praxis and dogma in the RCC, and more on charisma and other "personal qualities" on the part of the particular priest. This has a lot to do with the loosening of the strictures surrounding the priest's ministry, including his celebration of the Mass. "The Church" as it were, as some imposing metaphysical reality, fades more into the background, and individuals are being called to fill in the void. Thus, it shouldn't be surprising then if "the Vicar of Christ" gave way more to "John Paul II - Superstar".

I also believe this Muslim's comment is important, given the ingratitude which it is imbued with: it demonstrates what a limp noodle the entire "ecumenistic" and "interfaith" enterprise has in fact been for the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church as a whole. John Paul II has probably done more than any western spiritual leader in calling for "tolerance" (and even "acceptance" in some degree) of non-Catholic (and even non-Christian) religions, basically helping to create a more welcoming environment in western Europe for people like the Muslim commentator I've quoted. Frankly, I think this has been an incredibly big mistake, but in this wise John Paul II was thoroughly a child of the "spirit of Vatican II", which in it's promulgated texts spoke well of Islam as being an "Abrahamic religion" and more problematically, as worshipping the "one God" adored by Christians. Of course, St.John the Theologian might have a problem with that notion (1st John 2:23).

Apart from the doctrinal consideration however (though it is certainly the basis for, and facilitates the problem I'm about to get into), there is the practical one. The fact of the matter is, foreign religions if accepted integrally (which they are by all but their most nominal devotees), pose serious contraditions one to another. Often these contradictions involve very basic matters, whether it be the Godhead, or just as troubling, what the "will of God" in fact is for mankind. On that count, Islam (just as one of many possible examples) is radically opposed to Roman Catholicism. This makes the Pope's overtures and accomodation of the Islamists not just bad theology, but bad social policy. In fact now was the worst time for such gestures, for while Latin Christendom (and it's Protestant daughters) is quite unsure of itself and just what shape the future of the west should take, this cannot be said for the "black flag of Islam", which has always been quite sure on a dogmatic level of what it wants for the human family.

In short, most of the interfaith dialogue the Pope has engaged in (and which has become a matter of official policy in the Latin church), has been not only a wasted effort, but one which has harmed his own spiritual children. I'd also go so far as to say the same of his efforts with other Christian confessions (including the Orthodox Church), in so far as these discussions have not dwelled upon what separates us all (which is where the problem really is) but have typically devolved into indifferentistic "luv-fests" which pretend that time and entrophy will cover all of those problems so long as we begin concelebrating and otherwise living together in the "same house."

It'll be interesting to see what the future holds for the Roman Catholic Church, and the world at large. I find myself holding my breath with a mixture of dread and curiosity, to see who John Paul's successor will be.


Blogger David Bryan said...

Li'l "pontificate" you mean his particular "administration," right? Or is it just his office as "Supreme Bishop"?

I think your comments regarding the ineffectiveness of the ecumenism exhibited during his reign are spot on, but I would be quick to remind you that he did not at all approve of many of the liturgical nightmares happening under the guise of "the Vatican II Mass"--which, if followed according to papal likings, is quite traditional and quite lovely--likewise his staunch stance on a male (albeit still an unmarried male!) priesthood in the face of deluded nuns et al is refreshing.

And his openness to other confessions has proved enjoyable for us as well (i.e., relics of Ss. John and Gregory coming home).

6:38 p.m.  

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