Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Pope You Always Wanted? The Papal Conclave and the Critical Mom: Advice for the Theologically Challenged

I don't know who is more theologically challenged--them or me.  Me, I'm an atheist, but all that means is that I think what religious people call "God" or "spirit" means the inner voice that tells you to act like a mensch.  It's your own good sense, and its also "the force that through the green fuse drives the flower." And it is "the confession, not the priest, that grants you absolution." (Oscar Wilde's insight)

Let's take care of the basics:  

The word "conclave" means "with a key" because the cardinals--most of them over age 70--who are selecting the next pope get locked up in total isolation and some discomfort in order to make them decide fast.  Once upon a time, back when Pope Clement IV died in 1268, cardinals slowed down, remaining indecisive for three years, so the city of Rome fed them bread and water, and took their roof off.  Then they got busy, but since they say the Holy Ghost infuses them with its own ideas, effectively deciding the whole business, and since the Holy Ghost does not grant interviews, we can't be sure that they didn't themselves entirely select the next pope

The cardinals believe that the man they vote in as pope has divine infallibility, that according to God he can do no wrong.  So how come he did not de-frock a priest in Wisconsin who had molested 200 children, but instead excommunicated a Ugandan priest who had married?  A child molester is more Catholic than a man who marries a grown woman?

• Further details are explained in this helpful video, "Exposed:  Vatican Picks a New Pope!":

And for all you gals out there who think you might want to be pope some day when the Catholic church has an epiphany and admits women candidates to the papacy:

Now, Benedict's brother says he lay awake at night worrying over the child abuse problem.  I feel so sorry for him.  From 2001-2005, Benedict was in charge of all reported sex abuse cases.  He made some lame apologies and fell silent.  Silence, when you're dealing with the Roman Catholic church, is dross.  As Pope Betty remarks, "Abstinence makes the Church grow fondlers."  Benedict told a bunch of African priests to accept "the gift of celibacy."  I guess it gets easier to accept when you are over the age of seventy, but I can tell you right now that I, age 56, would return that gift, get a store credit, and buy myself something really nice.

Idealism is one thing.  Many young men and women enter the church with the notion that they'll serve God with all their heart and all their soul and all their mind if they become celibate.  Then it starts to get to them.  They fall in love or they masturbate out of loneliness, not love, or they drink or they molest children.  At least with the first three they are only limiting their own lives.  The fourth option is obviously the worst.  To be idealistic at fourteen or fifteen is normal.  To deem celibacy a gift from God when you are all grown up--and grown old, at 85, can only be a delusion or a lie.  I wish I could say we'd expect better from a pontiff but we can't, because he's a politician--God's politician on earth, is how he must see it.

And now for one of my favorite Wikipedia entries:

Celibacy in Africa
Africa presents particular problems for the Catholic priestly vow of celibacy, as there are cultural expectations for a man to have a family. Early in the 21st century, as celibacy continued to come under question, Africa was cited as a region where the violation of celibacy is particularly rampant. Priests on the continent were accused of taking wives and concubines. Isolation of priests working in rural Africa, and the low status of women, add to the temptation. A breakaway sect of married Catholic priests in Uganda, called the Catholic Apostolic National Church, formed in 2010 following the excommunication of a married priest by Pope Benedict XVI.

Catholicism in Mexico and Africa is really hopping, that is, if you acknowledge that hybrids are healthier.  All kinds of folk religion, pantheism, and a especially a healthy interest in sexuality infuse forms of Catholicism practiced in those places.  Granted, other problems develop.  Nuns in Uganda and other parts of Africa, thought to be "pure" if they are celibate, are considered safer to exploit than the general population, which has a high AIDS rate.  When nuns get raped or forced into sexual favors, one of those folk beliefs dictates that a "pure" being will somehow destroy any sexually transmitted disease.  Which is better?  A clergy that indulges in married love and rape, or one that goes after children?  If you held a gun to my head I'd take the former, but let's again get back to basics:  the original meaning of the term "Catholic" is "universal" and what is universally needed is love.  A Catholic church that actually follows the teachings of Jesus, and believe me, no institution does, would be a church worth following.  

The Vatican has known about these sins and crimes for some time. When Benedict XVI traveled to Africa in 2005, for example, he addressed the question of celibacy explicitly. He urged the bishops there to "open themselves fully to serving others as Christ did by embracing the gift of celibacy."
Indeed, Benedict holds celibacy so high that last year he excommunicated a Zambian priest, the Rev. Luciano Anzanga Mbewe, for being married. Mbewe now heads a breakaway sect of married Catholic priests in Uganda called the Catholic Apostolic National Church, according to The New York Times. "
- See more at:


  1. Great post. As a lapsed Catholic, I have to agree with you on the absurdity of its sexual rules for priests (one would almost think celibacy leads to pedophilia). But then, I think Jesus was probably married and that fact was suppressed by the church when it handed power to priests and removed it from women who were early leaders of the movement.

  2. Hope you enjoyed the videos. Can't decide which one fills me with more glee. Yes, Jesus was probably married, and I JUST LOVE the Dan Brown version of Jesus, suggesting, as it does, that WOMEN and MATRIARCHY are The One True Way. (Yes I know the real One True Way is the knowledge that there is no One True Way . . . blah, blah, and again, blah!)


    "Abstinence makes the Church grow fondlers."