There's a New Pope In Town

In case it was possible for anyone to not know, the Pope is in town.  And DC seems to be agog.  All week long the metro platforms have been announcing that you can take the train to Nationals stadium (if you have a ticket).  On the trains, I've heard several cellphone conversations about the pontiff.  And the Post is running stories about people who paid thousands of dollars to fly here, or drove all night... And of course there is stuff like this.

I am a little taken aback by all this.  Not that I ever put much stock in us being the capital of the "most powerful nation on earth," but still, I would think that Washingtonians would be used to visits by really important people.  And I suppose the other part of it is that I don't like the guy.  Now, Pope John Paul II, I could understand waiting all night to see. But Benedict...he doesn't have a kind face, and I'm not convinced he can't control that.  JPII was the first pope to visit a mosque.  Benedict, otoh, one of the first things he does as Pope is to attack the Muslim faith.  JPII visited Auschwitz and kneeled in repentance for the sins of the Church.  Benedict reinstates the Latin Mass, part of which describes Jews as deluded.  JPII seemed to approach the world with love.  Benedict seems to be out to bring the faithful in line.  

The frenzy over this man whom I do not find at all appealing drives home to me the fundamental difference between Catholics and UUs, or Protestants for that matter.  I can like people and dislike people based on what I perceive of them.  I can even understand a particular amount of respect for a title.  But I can't for the life of me understand the adoration of a title.

A friend of mine once said that real sports fans are loyal to their team, not to the players on the team.  I guess Catholics are real sports fans.

Catholicism has traditionally been a "love or leave it" religion.  What the Vatican said went without question (because it was the discerned will of God) and you either follow or become a heretic/apostate.  Given the position that the Church still holds on women clergy, celibacy, contraception, and BGLT equality (man, the Church must really be against sex), it's been harder and harder for many American Catholics to stay within their Church.  Many just leave.  That's why I was especially impressed by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend when she exhorted disenchanted Catholics to not give up on their Church, to work for reform.  Do not simply walk away from the religion that you love.  Work to save it.

That is what some very dedicated progressive Catholics are trying to do during this Pope's visit - advocating for women and BGLT clergy.  They are working to make the Catholic church, which btw means "universal," more Catholic - to make it a church that fully embodies the power of God's love, which embraces all.  I still think Benedict looks mean and have no faith that he will listen, but I applaud the work done by these loving souls.

Addendum (2008.04.18 21:04)

Hey, so I just saw that Pope Benedict visited a synagogue in New York.  Well, good on him. :)

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Acknowledgments is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative