As a Roman Catholic, I am actually heartened, a little, by the resignation of our Pontiff, but I am holding my breath to see who gets elected next. I mean, these folks aren’t known for their progressive leanings…
For the most part, a conservative, hardline church isn’t that bad of a thing. Keeping things close to tradition and established doctrine in manners of practice are good trends to keep the church connected to the traditions of history, and to prevent the following of ridiculous (in retrospect) trends.
But, there are issues that are very important issues where the hardline establishment is absolutely, unequivocally wrong.
Women should be granted full membership in the priesthood. I recall, when I worked at Starbucks, a Methodist Minister who came in regularly with her husband and often met with her parishioners there. Meeting her and seeing her in action, I was definitely impressed by her Christ-like nature, intelligence, and leadership ability to shepherd her flock. If I had any doubts, which I don’t recall ever having on this issue, witnessing firsthand a female minister in action sealed the deal.
The ownership of a particular set of genitalia has absolutely no relationship to the closeness of a soul to God, or to their magical ability to conduct medieval rituals that equate, in many a fashion, to magical spells. Another important issue where the pontiff is absolutely, indefensibly wrong is the issue of gay and lesbian and transgender rights. God don’t make no mistakes, as they say. Truly, a close Biblical reading indicates that unnatural acts are immoral, in the letters of Paul. What is natural to others might not be natural to the grand, old historical traditional marriage edifice. I say gay marriage for everyone. The same rules that make straight marriage a blessing and a sacrament in a church that favors and values celibacy is that when two people are in love, truly, celibacy is an impossible sacrifice and it is better that we commit to each other than face the fiery furnace. I don’t think I need to explain why this also applies to gay, lesbian, transgendered, bisexual, etc. (I can respect the position on human life at conception, even if I do not think it is a wholesome or utilitarian thing to have in place, and leads to far worse outcomes, in my opinion, than the alternative. Honestly, much of the concern the “right-to-life” people have mysteriously dries up once the child is born, and I’d respect them a lot more if they were building orphanages than picketing doctor’s offices…)
I also think the vow of celibacy is long past time to fold up and put away. I suspect it continues because, deep down, much of the priesthood is irked that if they didn’t get to marry, no one should. (It’s not like there haven’t been copious affairs, mind…) Monks and nuns, ought to remain cloistered, celibate, and meditative, as that is their role with god. Priests should walk with the world, and lead it in all things, and that means dating if they want to, and marrying if they want to.
This was how things were, once, in the Catholic faith, and it has come ’round again and it isn’t breaking other faiths all around us this time, now that property law and church law are two separate and distinct entities, and sons aren’t expected to step into their father’s shoes.
My opinion as a theologian is not valued much by the real theologians of the world. But, I suspect sometimes it’s a good thing to cut through theology with a knife and try something that feels true and works well. I guess that’s a fictionist feeling in me, not a memoirist.
Anyway, I am glad to see the old guard fading away with this resignation. I hope he has a restful and fulfilling retirement. The next Pontiff will probably be another hard-liner, like Ratzinger. But, the old grey guard is changing and fading and watching the world turn away. Pretty soon, if we’re really lucky, one of those long-haired hippy priests will stumble into power, and write a Papal Bull that rocks the foundation of the old-timey faith.