Given Ben's positively ferocious amount of recent activity, I feel as though I'm coming out of cybernetic hibernation! I am about to make a comeback; which means this blog will once again be split between fascinating offerings from the internet and long winded complaints about the various things in life that irk me. With any luck, my interruptions will not be completely irritating.
Issue of today is my run in with an articulate and polite person possessed of the most shocking opinions I've encountered in real life.
Opinion #1: Alexander VI was preferable to John Paul II in terms of damage done to the Church during stay in papal office.
It's even more ridiculous seeing it written out than hearing it in person, but this person was quite adamant...and quite sane. His argument, as far as I could tell, was that the damage done by John Paul II was of a less obvious nature than that exacted by Alexander VI. Apparently John Paul is responsible for ecumenism of an unconscionable degree (the Day of Prayer in Assisi incident), scandal (kissing the Koran), and yet more scandal (topless women at Mass in certain African countries).
Considering these two pontiffs together, it seems strange to me to disregard the fact that one gave only evidence of a debauched and deranged spirit, while the other gave every proof of holiness and divine favor. From his miraculous escape from assassination to his moving forgiveness of the man who tried to kill him, he constantly provided an example of virtue and blessedness that amazed and inspired the world.
Nor can we ever forget the tremendous role he played in toppling Communism, that most heinous of the 20th century's crimes. If that were the only contribution he gave to history, it would be enough to merit encomiums and monuments for decades to come.
Yet his most profound gift was the gift he gave of himself to Catholics around the world. He preached Christ's message in unceasing eloquence to all the nations of this world, and traveled to nearly every continent to spread the Gospel in a manner reminiscent of the original Apostles. He reached over the heads of bureaucratic bishops to reach his flock and touched the hearts of all to whom he spoke.
Administration may not have been his strength; in fact, I doubt there are many who would make that claim. He allowed other men to make appointments, send invitations, and make arrangements, which may explain the presence of Animists at the Day of Prayer. His focus was not on the liturgy, which partially explains the widespread downward trend in liturgical excellence during his pontificate.
But as little as I care for practices such as the Sign of Peace during the Mass, John Paul gave me a reason to reconsider my position on that. During his requiem Mass the world saw the Ayatollah of Iran turn round and clasp the hand of the Prime Minister of Israel. In that moment, the departed pontiff seemed powerfully present.
I do not feel that I can make a judgment concerning the kissing of the Koran. Somehow, a college student taking it upon himself to criticize a man of that stature does not sway me much. I cannot say it was the best idea, but I have never heard the Pope's reasons for taking that action.
As for topless ladies at Mass, I find that argument entirely irrelevant. Catholic missionaries never demanded European standards of modesty from the native cultures they evangelized. That's one of the reasons they were so markedly more effective than Protestant missionaries. In quite a few African cultures, that woman's attire would have been considered completely modest and appropriate. Of course, if it had happened in America, that would be a reason for outrage. But it didn't, and it should not be a cause of undue choler.
There is a consistent group of Catholics who find John Paul problematic; they tend to fall in the SSPX camp or be of that ilk. And to them I say this: You may feel confident that you have the authority to defy the Vicar of Christ, but let's take a little trip down memory lane. Remember Savanarola? Dominican Friar unpopular with complacent Christians because of his hellfire and brimstone attitude toward vice? He's a little like Lefebvre, in his "against the world" attitude. But when he was reprimanded by his Pope, he did what Lefebvre found so impossible. He bowed his head and submitted. He stopped preaching (I'm from the crowd that fully believes he only recommenced preaching because he thought the Pope had lifted the ban) and obeyed that profligate Pope, Alexander VI. Obedience can be a bitter thing, but it's what gave Christ "the name above every other name." We would do well to continue to imitate the only begotten Son of God.
Don't you think?