Habemus Papam: Benedictum XVI

The big news of the day is that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger has been elected pope, choosing the name Benedict XVI. The significance of this bulletin won't immediately be as clear as the news of November 3, 2004, but it should not be ignored. (Also, I'd like to thank the College of Cardinals for a quick decision, sparing me from having to complete the pre-decision draft analysis.)

What was at stake in this election was nothing less than the soul of the church. From reports I read prior to the conclave there were two main factions, one the conservatives rallying behind Ratzinger, and another the progressives, split among a handful of possible candidates. As my colleague Bill Cholenski noted earlier, the Catholic Church's positions on things ought to be mostly constant. With the election of a progressive candidate, the church would in effect have said "oops" on several fronts. And if you're really the living instrument of God on Earth, you're not supposed to make those kinds of mistakes.

This is not to say that I agree with the church's positions. I am fundamentally at odds with most of what they have to say. But I'd rather see an opponent I can respect than a weasel-ish fairweather ally.

Really, they can't win. They can sell out their core beliefs to a tide of progressivism and retain their membership (For what shall it profit the church, if it shall gain the whole world, and lose its own soul?), or they can keep their core beliefs intact and lose membership. From this perspective, if you dislike the church you ought to have wished for a conservative candidate, so that they would drive out their followers and fade away quickly; and if you like the church you ought to have wished for a conservative candidate, so that they wouldn't surrender revealed truths to popular opinion.

Well lucky you, because you got him.

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Dave, Until a new religion

Dave,

Until a new religion pops up. :)

That's the great thing about religion. You can create any kind of fucking "reality" beyond the senses, any moral code, etc. and call it religious and you'll pick up followers as long as you are charismatic enough.

Dave, I guess I should have

Dave,

I guess I should have just quoted L. Ron Hubbard on the matter. :)

Thea, I respect and admire

Thea, I respect and admire religious persons, but do you become a better person by being obligated to obey a dogma that is personally damaging? For instance, once you are a Jehovah’s Witness you must let your child bleed to death. No transfusions allowed. If you are a Catholic you must bear innumerable children or cheat or use unreliable Catholic Roulette or do without sex. If you are gay and religious, you have a problem in many churches. It all seems a bit unfair. Is it no pain no gain? Or is it better to just forget the whole thing? All religions seem to be one size fits all.

Robert, Aren't into the

Robert,

Aren't into the notion that Paul was the first Pope, eh? :)

I'll be curious to see how fast the RCC moves on allowing priests to marry. Some married priests already exist in the RCC, BTW. They are Anglican converts as I recall.

Anyway, there are less priests today worldwide than there were in 1975. And there are distributional problems. There is something like one priest per every ~9,000 Catholics in Latin America. Something like 1/3rd of U.S. priests are basically the elderly who do little that is priestly. Its expect that in twenty-five years the ~50,000 U.S. priests will drop to 10,000.

Also, the priesthood simply just doesn't offer the social advantages it once did.

Anyway, the many schisms of

Anyway, the many schisms of the post-1517 era (if that’s where you want to demarcate things - I tend to start with the Lollards) took care of the hierarchy. What’s interesting is that Ratzinger spiked an ecumenical communion in 2003 in Germany. It was supposed to bring Lutherans and Catholics together for mass.

For me, the line of demarcation is the 4th Century, when Roman intellectuals and philosophers appropriated Christian teachings and created the institution (an amalgamation of disparate pagan cultures, Judaism and Christian texts) that today has many divergent theological positions under the umbrella of “The Church”. Reform Theology is essentially Catholic-light, as many of the changes were/are cosmetic.

Benedict XVI has made it clear that he will down-play ecumenicalism, as he condemned “totalitarian relativism” (read that: considering other doctrines/sects to have equal weight relative to Catholicism). In my view, they are more similar than not, in that both currently adhere to traditions that have no basis in Scripture, but were born of cultural necessity. The history of Christianity shows that new denominations arise with new traditions and/or revelations.

My impression is this:

My impression is this: Conservative churches gain disciples in Latin America, Africa, and North America and lose disciples in Europe. Liberal churches lose disciples in Latin America, Africa, North America and Europe.

I think conservative is the way to go.

Yours,
Wince

Robert, Anyway, the many

Robert,

Anyway, the many schisms of the post-1517 era (if that's where you want to demarcate things - I tend to start with the Lollards) took care of the hierarchy. What's interesting is that Ratzinger spiked an ecumenical communion in 2003 in Germany. It was supposed to bring Luterhans and Catholics together for mass.

Robert, Well, the RCC burned

Robert,

Well, the RCC burned Hus, and Calvin's Geneva burned Michael Servetus. Both did rather foolish things; Hus trusted the Papacy's promise of protection and Servetus stupidly showed up in Geneva after Calvin stated he would burn him to death if he ever got his hands on him.

As to strict, centralized control, that was also a hallmark of the post-12th century "reforms" of the Catholic Church (I don't start calling it the RCC until the arrival of the Hussites).

I mean hey, the RCC used to

I mean hey, the RCC used to burn folks at the stake with some regularity and now they claim that all of life is sacred.

Sadly, John Calvin and his Presbyterian followers also burned heretics in public. His descendants, the Puritans, were similarly brutal to the 17th Century Colonists. Strict, centralized control is a hallmark of modern Christianity…that is, in the post apostolic era.

Ironically, the Church that

Ironically, the Church that survives and grows is the one that promotes a hard way that no one can comply with. I once thought of starting a church and I thought everyone would join. You can do anything you want and everyone goes to heaven. You don’t have to tithe, etc. So far it has been a big failure. I just don’t know why...Robert is right, the masses want to be lead but they like a painful road to paradise.

At least for me, faith and religion are ways with which to identify aspects of myself that need improvement, and provide a model of how to go about these improvements. It also provides comfort and strength when I need it. Perhaps its not that people want a painful road paradise so much as they want a way to actually make themselves better people.

I mean hey, the RCC used to

I mean hey, the RCC used to burn folks at the stake with some regularity and now they claim that all of life is sacred.

Robert, You are absolutely

Robert,

You are absolutely correct of course. This is a culturally-constructed body which has underwent innumerable changes over the years. They'll either change or die.

Ironically, the Church that

Ironically, the Church that survives and grows is the one that promotes a hard way that no one can comply with. I once thought of starting a church and I thought everyone would join. You can do anything you want and everyone goes to heaven. You don’t have to tithe, etc. So far it has been a big failure. I just don’t know why.
Does anyone have any ideas? Robert is right, the masses want to be lead but they like a painful road to paradise. Strangely, many Church doctrines were sensible according to the way things were understood when they originated, but now are carried on without regard to their original purpose. Why?

Benedict XVI will likely

Benedict XVI will likely serve Catholics well. However, scrutiny of Catholic dogma/doctrine and its myriad adjustments over time reveals that it is nothing more than an international organization that uses the Bible as mascot. That is, an objective analysis of what the Bible actually teaches (whether it’s taken as truth or not) versus Catholic theology reveals major conflicts. Martin Luther’s and John Calvin’s critiques and the subsequent Protestant Reformation, for example, demonstrated irreconcilable differences between Scripture and Catholic teaching.

Also, the 500+ years of Protestant theology has shown that they are not immune from developing traditions that alter the original interpretation of the Bible. The bottom line with most, if not all of the bureaucratic mega-religions is that the desire to manipulate drooling masses of adherents is commensurate with the desire of those masses to be led.

The priests of the Eastern

The priests of the Eastern Rite Catholic churches are also allowed to marry.

- Josh

The requirement that all

The requirement that all priests be non-married is problematical from a human nature standpoint. No other Western religion I can think of has such a weird requirement. Even the ultra-strict Hassidic Jews have married Rabbis.

Hus very insightfully

Hus very insightfully pointed out in a comment above that being a Priest used to be a prestigious position, but not so anymore in the U.S. or Western Europe.

Half Sigma, Well, the RCC is

Half Sigma,

Well, the RCC is in competition with other possible employers, lifestyles, etc. (maybe the RCC doesn't like to think in these terms). That has to have an effect on rate of recruitment.

Recently I saw a "Sixty Minutes" which profiled a number of American priests who had been "handpicked" by JPII. Did you see it?

Even the ultra-strict

Even the ultra-strict Hassidic Jews have married Rabbis.

That's an odd statement. Judaism has no qualms with sex inside marriage, and in fact considers it a great mitzvah to "be fruitful and multiply," hence the many Rabbis with 10+ kids.

Since you can't satisfy both

Since you can't satisfy both factions within the RCC, I think appointing a conservative Pope is the only way to go. Remember that both progressive and conservative members of the RCC are against the idea of moral relativity. The may disagree on exactly what the absolute Truth is, and therefore the direction of the Church, but moral continuity is very important. Following such a dramatic and long-lived Pope with anyone that was significantly more progressive would have been a repudiation of JP2 and the principles he stood for. Also, to move in an opposite direction would reveal the purely political machinations behind the RCC, which can alienate the faithful and only serve to undermine authority. While the Church must change eventually, it is imperative that it change slowly. A Vatican 3 type situation could really destroy the Church, even though what remained would probably be a product better adapted to the 21st century.

Keep in mind that B16 is really old and it is extremely unlikely that he will have even a fraction of the effect the JP2 did. I think he's basically a placeholder, elected to maintain moral integrity and validate the ideals of JP2. Next time around it will be much, much easier to elect a more progressive Pope should that be desired.

Dave- ...do you become a

Dave-

...do you become a better person by being obligated to obey a dogma that is personally damaging? For instance, once you are a Jehovah’s Witness you must let your child bleed to death. No transfusions allowed. If you are a Catholic you must bear innumerable children or cheat or use unreliable Catholic Roulette or do without sex. If you are gay and religious, you have a problem in many churches. It all seems a bit unfair. Is it no pain no gain? Or is it better to just forget the whole thing? All religions seem to be one size fits all.

I don't think that many people that are religious see the beliefs they have as damaging.

I really can only speak to this as it affects me (this is why I think of religion as a personal thing as I'm not sure how any person could determine what another person can or can not handle), so I can't speak the Jehovah's Witness question or the homosexual question (I have thought a lot about the latter, but without coming to a satisfactory conclusion).

To the point that does affect me, I guess you could think about it as roulette, but 91% first year effective rate really isn't that bad. It does require some self-control, but it's also free and has no side effects. I guess I'm just not sure that a convincing case could be made that the rhythm method or abstinence are damaging. On the other hand, I do think that abortifacients are damaging to a person (at least I am positive they would be morally damaging for me to take).

As far as the one size fits all, I don't really know. I think there is a truth, I'm just not sure that it can ever be fully understood in human lifetime. My inclination would be that there would be a faith that everyone would be able to believe, but this doesn't seem to be the case in reality.