Sunday, March 3, 2013

We Need a Pope Who....

I recently read a series of articles describing Latin Americans' desire to have a Pope who is either one of their own or who "understands" them and the "modern world" better than the "last two papacies." Accusations of Eurocentrism abound in these articles, as do statistics about the growth of Evangelical protestantism in Latin America.

I find this outlook to be very un-supernatural. The cardinals must pick a Pope who "understands" you? I cannot recall a Pope who "understands" what it means to be an American, nor do I want one. I just want whoever God has decided will be Bishop of Rome. The selection of the Pontiff is not a merely human affair, The old saying is that God has chosen the next Pope and the task of the cardinals is to figure out who that person is. We do not pluck Popes from the sea of red hats for only political considerations. When this has been done the results have been mixed at best.

Then there is the second dimension to this issue. Latin America is becoming very commercialized, as access to high speed communications, cheap imported products, and foreign media eases. With this has been a certain liberalization in culture which has disposed some to Liberation Theology, some to protestantism, and some to outright Marxism. Sexual indiscretion is certainly more common in some Latin American countries, thanks to foreign encouragement. One article included a story of a person who claims to be "unchurched" after leaving Catholicism over its sexual morals.

Can anyone really believe for a moment that some hip, modern, iPhone-owning, condom-OKing clerics will really improve the situation? No, of course not. Such a move would make things worse, for giving Latin America such a leader would only force more of the drink down their throats that is causing that part of the world to be religiously tipsy now. A Pope who is fine with condoms is not going to appeal to young people. Such a Pope would, which God will not give us, would only be received by the youth as condoning their own irreligious sexual rootlessness. Would a Pope with a charismatic or Evangelical prayer style bring people back to Mass or would people perceive a leader who, like them, is moving away from formal worship and towards loose and emotion "experiences?"

I have found in my own life that young people, regardless of the country and their ethnicity, are a bit bored by modernity, which to them is no longer exciting, just normal. If they do not practice religion it is more often out of ignorance and the influence of their parents than due animus towards faith. These youths are an opportunity for a teaching moment for the future Pope and his bishops. Perhaps they can teach these young people what Evelyn Waugh called an "ancient, newly learned form of words" known as prayer.

People are after meaning in their lives, and the social upheaval in Latin America suggests that part of the world is no different. Latin America needs a Pope, like the rest of the world, that will teach and re-invigorate the faith of Christ. A religious father who pats us on the back and tells us we are doing a great job is a disaster or any sinner.

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