NOTE: Started this post about a month ago and then experienced a long and involuntary hiatus. So here it is--basically untouched. Pope Francis I's style has already made some of this irrelevant, but that's a topic for another post.
Wowzers! The Pope, it turns out, is actually Catholic and, can you believe it, actually expects Catholics to listen to him. He is, after all, the POPE.
Not that it matters to journalists like Tim Padgett.
To come clean at the start, Padgett and I both graduated from Wabash College, the small, all-male liberal college in Indiana. Wabash alumni are a tight-knit group, known for defending the brethren against all critics. Amongst themselves, though, the gloves come off when the arguments start. Tim recognizes the "bloody knuckles" rhetoric as much as I do; loathe to break ranks in public, we'll lacerate each other in our endless conversations over beer, coffee, food, whatever. I can't speak about other institutions, but the oral tradition--mythology, folklore, etc.--remains alive at Wabash. The stories about the place--prior to us and in our own experiences--make the place and made us, its graduates. Part of those stories involve fierce, intense disagreements.
I wonder if Tim will recall that shared heritage, because his article about Pope Francis falls a little flat. Granted, Padgett is an award-winning reporter covering Central and South America. He knows that territory. But this piece involves some territory familiar to me, and therein lies the problem. Padgett concludes:
That should be a reminder to the new pope that if the Holy See he now
occupies wants to re-evangelize its own worldwide flock, it needs to
renew its Christian role and leave behind its cruel rhetoric.
The Church's cruel rhetoric? Renew its Christian role? Pray tell us, Tim, what's the foundation for this renewal? Eschew the Church's entire past--good and bad--and align itself with your own perspective? Or those Evangelical Protestant churches that you (rightfully) acknowledge are growing so quickly in Latin America? Are they any more gay-friendly? Is the Catholic Church solely responsible for the region's legalized opposition to abortion?
It's loose, lazy thinking--"it's all so simple: be like Jesus and love others (just don't be like THOSE people!)--and Padgett is certainly not the only guilty one. This isn't the time or place, but a fisk of Augustinian piety (thank you, Pope Emeritus Benedict!) reveals that we're all broken. We all make mistakes--intellectual, moral, and otherwise--and this includes things we write. Like this blog :P
That being said, Padgett's column represents yet another criticism wherein outsiders tell the Church what to do. The problem is that, like many organizations religious and not, the Church has internal machinations to correct for such external 'intrusion.' The Church does as IT--following God's revelation--sees fit, not as Tim Padgett or Spiritual Diabetes or MSNBC see fit.
And who knows? Given Pope Francis' already-known penchant for being his own pope, Tim Padgett and others might find themselves pleasantly surprised. But if Pope Francis does change things, will they--and the rest of us--be willing to hear it?
Or will we only accept the changes that we've already approved?