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Wednesday, April 20, 2005
"Not Everyone Was Happy"

The media's frame for Pope Benedict will be that the Church erred in choosing a doctrinaire conservative to be Pope. In the article linked above, it is clear the media will do everything possible to make that the story. In this case, on the historic naming of the new pope, it is already very high in the story (paragraph 4). By the end of the week it will be paragraph 1 or two in most, if not all stories.

My prediction is that the Catholic church will be portrayed as missing an opportunity here to reach out to progressives on this issue or that issue. The problem with this analysis, is it mis-reads what most people really want from the church. I'm not denying that there are people who want more cafeteria catholicism -- but I sincerely doubt that is the way the Church will fill the pews. When you tell people that Catholicism is whatever they want it to be, they have very little incentive to actually be a part of it -- since being a Catholic means everything under the sun -- and therefore nothing.

The problem with the Church (in the US at least) isn't that it stands for too much, but that it stands too little. Do you feel challenged enough by your parish to be a better Catholic? I sure don't. And I think that if challenged, many (but admittedly not all) will step up to the challenge -- and the church will be reborn in a positive way.

I would note that the type of challenges I am speaking of are not exclusively right wing -- though I would be the first to applaud more outspokeness on abortion... The churches opposition to the death penalty comes to mind. Greater involvement in volunteer efforts to help the poor also come to mind, though I reject the notion that volunteering is a liberal activity (getting a government job to provide the same service half as well at four times the cost is more like it).

I believe we are in the midst of another "Great Awakening" in the United States. Fundamentalist churches are growing by leaps and bounds... why is that? People want a priest/bishop/church with moral courage and firm principles. Not more political double-speak to make everyone happy.

The fact is, we should be very hesitant to view the Church's leadership through the prism of American politics. Wake up. None of the Bishops was going to turn around and approve gay marriages. It wasn't going to happen. At least now we are spared the "progressives, once hopeful, now disappointed in Pope" stories.

Maybe you guys are more versed in church doctrine and practices than I am. My sense is that women becoming priests is a much more likely thing to happen than Catholic gay marriages. Female priests seems to be more a question of Church practice -- how the word of God is spread... than doctrine. Although maybe that is a distinction without a difference.

I am very optimistic that Pope Benedict will have a positive affect, in terms of getting people to connect/re-connect with the church. The media stories down the road will focus on the curiousity of the resurgence in Catholicism. Since it can't have anything to do with the strict, doctrinaire pope, the media will have to come up with some sort of alternative explanation -- probably something to do with the resurgence of poverty and inequality under Bush or the pope's manipulation of the media to fool people into becoming more Catholic.

Any thoughts?

TJ -

You touch on a lot here - too much for a quick message. Couple of thoughts though.

You hit on a few things that need a sharper edge and to be highlighted:

- the MEDIA is trying to communicate that there are problems in the Church and the MEDIA is trying to define them.

- "American" Catholics have problems with the Church and try to get the Church to conform and respond to them. The media and many Americans forget that the Church is not a democracy. The challenge for Catholics and American Catholics in general is that WE follow our faith and conform our lives to a Christian lifestyle based on belief in God and the Catholic Church, regardless of whether we understand or not (that's perhaps why its called 'faith'). I often think that American's first reaction is to struggle against anything that may impact the way we want to live. Pope JP II also called for us to simplify our lives which can help us lead a more Christian lifestyle and better understand our faith.

- The Catholic Church is growing by leaps and bounds around the world, especially south of the equator.

- We are called to be apostles and the Catholic religion is rooted in action. Yet, per above, our faith alone, without understanding all the doctrine, should guide us in our actions.

- Just some thoughts,
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