Tuesday, April 19, 2005

New Pope, Old Story

Lots of ways to look at today's selection of Pope Benedict 16. First, I'm wondering about the name choice. I was hoping for Jake or Elwood -- weren't the Blues brothers canonized for the miracle salvation of St. whatever-it-was? But, alas, was not to be. I'll admit that, good Protestant that I am, I have no clue about the whole "naming of the Pope" thing, but I do hope that the speculation I heard today about the previous Benedict's efforts to bring peace to Europe amidst the chaos of the first world war accurately reflects the present Benedict's desire to be a peacemaker.
I certainly have more than a few doubts. His incredibly conservative orthodoxy seems bent on taking the church back a whole lot further than the early 20th century. If religious pluralism is at the root of any of the world's rifts and conflicts the man who railed against the "tyranny of relativism" and stated clearly that not all religions are equally true does not seem particularly well suited to healing sectarian divides.
On the other hand, if the root of the world's major divisions is the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor, perhaps Benedict will have a significant voice to offer. He seems to share his predecessor's conviction concerning a preferential option for the poor. If he places the full weight of his office behind the work of economic justice and economic democracy, perhaps he may be part of reviving the truly old, old story concerning the one who came preaching good news to the poor. That's an orthodoxy that even I could get behind.
Of course, that's the most hopeful thing I can imagine saying today as this incredibly conservative man takes over the leadership of the world's Roman Catholics. Our sisters need not apply for leadership there. Our gay brothers and lesbian sisters will not find an open door. Those living under the constant threat of the global AIDS pandemic will find a pious, self-righteous option for orthodoxy over life-saving condom use (so much for the culture of life).
The list of deep concerns is too long to enumerate. It is a new pope who brings the same old story. Suffice it to say, that while I am holding my Roman Catholic sisters and brothers in the light today, I am also thanking God for Luther and Calvin. Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda!