Sunday, 19 September 2010

Problems with the Papacy

The Pope's visit ends today and I'm pleased.

I have been really uncomfortable with the whole thing because I don't like the Papacy much, I find the institution problematic, yet the reaction we seem to have had in Britain over his state visit has caused me to want to defend him quite robustly.

I am by nature quite argumentative, so I have had to check myself that this urge has not just been part of my natural leaning to argue that black is white. I don't really care too much if he's here or not so to feel so wound up has seemed a little... well.... pointless. Still, there's no denying it. Wound up I have been.

There are bits like the Humanist Society spending their resources on denouncing the Pope's visit for making us spend resources on him, that have made me smile at the irony. I have been slightly bewildered by the objection of his entitlement to a state visit on moral grounds by a secular body when other heads of state are readily welcomed and their morality left unquestioned.

Why is it that we object to the Pope so much anyway? I don't believe it's because he doesn't measure up morally. If we really were becoming morally aware and wanted to fight for the little guy then we could; we can. There are companies to take down, taxes to raise and invest in the poor, we can engage in any number of ways, but we don't seem to be doing a great deal of that.

Why is it then that we have objected to him so much?

I think, and this is just a guess after much pondering, that what we have seen in the reaction against Benedict 16th is really an expression of our own self delusion.

Stay with me on this. The reason I need my Christian community is because they keep me on the straight and narrow. I can't go too far off course without someone pulling me up on things. It's a painful process most of the time, but rubbing along with folks from many walks of life, striving for Jesus and letting them have a voice in the way I run my life life, holds me to Christ in a way that I cannot do on my own.

Left to my own devises I would simply lie to myself. "I am not too bad", "Many people are worse than me", "Given my circumstances anyone would have done the same". I would go on and on in delusion. "My spirituality", I would say, "is my own business, no one has the right to judge me, I do OK". To live in community with others, in the light of Christ, makes it too hard to do this. Others get to speak into you, it hurts, it heals, it's part of looking for the truth.

I think when we react against Benedict 16th turning up, we are pointing out all the ills of this religious leader so that we can relax and again make our own judgments King. If the Pope is the bad guy, we can go back to telling ourselves we are really not that bad at all. We don't need to be held to any account or to come out of our own private deliberations. The soft sell we allow ourselves can rule. "These religious types are no good, such hypocrites. I can follow my own conscience and believe my own truth". It is enticing because it's easier and lets us off the hook. It's just not very truthful.

All I can say for my own part is, I don't trust myself enough to do that. I need others to call me to account and to reveal the way, the truth and the light to me. I am very aware that I could convince myself of how right I am and how good I am if I don't allow others to have authority and community with me.

As a result, I can't, on this occasion, stand and object to Pope Benedict's visit to Britain. It would align me with too much that I find tempting.


  1. Hi Kez - your points are very fair - my problem with papacy is simple - anyone who usurps the unique place of Jesus as our only mediator with God, the only head of the church, the only priest we need, and usurps the unique place of the Holy Spirit as the only true 'Vicar of Christ' on earth cannot be right. Whatever Joseph Ratzinger's personal qualities or moral convictions, his OFFICE is a blasphemy. Paul

  2. "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." John 8:7, a good statement by Jesus, isn't it? From my own Christian experience, the problem with Christian churches (even with politics)is not the OFFICE but PEOPLE in the office, as one once put it "the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart", so before we make judgment, let us examine ourselves as individuals and communities. On which standards do we compare ourselves with others? Who is the referee? Victor, from The 1000 Hills Country!

  3. Joseph Ratzinger named? Are we pointing a gun at the position of Pope or at a man? Millions throughout the world, both good and bad, accept this man as the representative of Christ on Earth and he is democratically elected to the position by a group of his peers which, in itself, suggests that this is a man made post. Most churches coming under the umbrella of Christianity (and some of those which don't) have a 'top man' who guides and governs under the authority of their God and those who don't live by the word of the Church leaders in their own community as well as their holy books and own consciences. Why look for a problem with the position of one man or the man himself.