Monday, April 04, 2005

Thoughts on the Death of JP II

Where to begin? No idea; so no particular order, I promise to mix my general smarm with my heartfelt sympathies:

1) For 26 years, John Paul II has been not just Pope, but THE Pope. Few of my peers can remember a time where anyone else occupied the chair of St. Peter. For that reason, John Paul has become synonymous with the office of Pope at least for the current generation. His passing is rightly called an end of an era, without irony or sarcasm.

2) His reign was characterized by what has sometimes been described as the Catholic Third Way: a cling to the old traditions of social conservatism with a push towards economic liberalism. In this context, he did not fit in the traditional mold of left vs. right; Democrats vs. Republicans; Us vs. Them. Each of our sides can claim a portion of his legacy, without being able to fully claim the whole of it.

3) News media, please don't poll people on whether he is the Greatest Pope in history; until the general population can give me a short biographical description of about Adrian VI, Julius II, Innocent III, Linus, Sylvester, Gregory the Great, Leo the Great, etc., they are in no position to confer upon the John Paul II the status of "The Greatest Pope in History."

4) News media, the general Catholic population doesn't vote for the Pope. Learn this fact well. There are 117 Men in Red who will decide, in secret, who the successor to St. Peter will be. No matter of polling of the opinions of Catholics, let alone US Catholics, will change the outcome.

* Additional... the girl on CNN who compared John Paul II to Jesus should be given the ol' bell, book, and candle routine.

5) News media, please don't circle like vultures. The 24 hr vigil before his death was OK, but bordered on disrespectful. Talking about the guy in the past tense before he was dead is just tacky. Talking about his potential successors before he was dead is just wrong. Let the guy get in the ground... erm… tomb.

6) I'm uneasy about lowering the flags for Pope John Paul II. Seems to be a clear violation of Church & State and also an honorific for a foreign Head of State. Would we do the same for the death of Ayatollah al-Sistani or for the Queen of England? Maybe, but it seems like a cheap political ploy in this case, excuse my cynicism. I would, by the way, be OK with lowering the flag for Karol Wojtyla. Am I sniping? Probably, and I feel bad about it.

7) How do you choose a successor to JP II? Much has been said in the media about how the Cardinals have been substantially appointed by him and how they share his views. There is, however, a key difference between them and him: they are not him. The Cardinals, for the sake of the office of the Primate and for the sake of the Church, may probably chose a placeholder Pope, i.e., someone bordering on 80, not expecting him to live that long. The shoes of JP II are so big, it may behoove the Cardinals to bring the office back down to Earth, making it less defined by one man. We may see a succession of short-term Popes, just to bring balance back to the relationship between Bishops and the Holy See.

OK... I'm done. More smarm later.

1 comment:

CmdrSue said...

My husband had the exact same reaction to the lowering of the flag.

Meanwhile, my sister murmurs about the prophecy of the Last Pope, which indicates there are only two more after this one. Supposedly one will go quickly and then the last one will be a reeeeeeaaaaallllly bad person.

We'll see.