Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: Death of an Icon - part deaux .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Monday, April 04, 2005

Death of an Icon - part deaux


Pope John Paul II
1920 - 2005

When the Pope's heart stopped beating at 1:37 p.m. Houston time on Saturday, it brought to an end one of the most controversial papacies in recent history.

Arguably one of the instigators of the fall of Communism, he visited his native Poland eight months into his papacy and sparked the cause of Polish solidarity, the first independent labor movement in the Soviet bloc.

He lobbied for recognition of a Palestinian State, and apologized to Israel for past crimes committed by Christians against Jews. Yet he defended the (non) actions of Pope Pius IX, who remained silent while Nazi Germany systematically exterminated these Jews.

Although he helped foster good will among other faiths by paying tribute to synagogues and mosques, he remained unswerving in his resistance to modern culture. Along with harsh condemnation of abortion and euthanasia, he was also very vocal in his opposition to birth control, gay marriage and the use of fetuses in stem cell research, issues that American fundamentalists have embraced with open arms and legs. Of course, he also denounced the death penalty, divorce and both wars in Iraq, but the fundamentalist conveniently overlooked this part of his doctrine.

Firmly believing that sex was created solely for the purpose of reproduction, his encyclicals turned almost a billion Catholics into hypocrites and hedonists. By declaring sex for any other reason a sin - even among married couples - he took one of man’s basic species survival instincts and outlawed it. Forget about coveting your neighbor’s wife, you’re not even supposed to covet your own.

We’ve all seen what celibacy does to priests, imagine what it would do the general population. You think those red-staters are anal-retentive now, just wait until they haven’t had any for a couple of months.

But I digress. Now that John Paul II is gone, there remains the task of electing a new Pope. And no, Giblets isn’t in the running, but these guys are.

Discussion on this subject is moot, however, as the College of Cardinals meets in secret to select the next Pope. Unlike democratic elections, the people have no say in the process. The CoC will make their decision based on what they perceive is best for the Church, not what’s best for the people.

When Karol Wojtyla was elected and became John Paul II (John Paul I being the bassist for Led Zeppelin) in 1978, what the Church perceived as the biggest threat to itself was the spread of Communism. Today there are myriad other issues – faith-based terrorism, biomedical ethics, and the rise of Evangelical non-Catholic spiritual leaders in many Catholic strongholds.

Of course there are always the real issues - poverty, hunger, and corruption among world leaders. But unless they elect one of the potential candidates from Africa or Latin America, those issues will only be of secondary concern to the Church.

And there are the introspective issues, such as females in the priesthood, priest marriage, sex scandals, and perception that the Church is archaic and not keeping up with the 21st century.

All in all, it promises to be an emotional time if you’re a Catholic, and an entertaining one if you are not. One thing is certain. Whoever becomes God’s second-in-command will have his hands full as he attempts to lead the world’s largest congregation either into the 21st century or back into the 19th.

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