Good Pope, Bad Pope

If it weren’t so tiresome and predictable, the laments of Catholic “dissidents” would be amusing. Here are folks who for cultural and other reasons consider themselves to be Roman Catholic, yet have grave problems with what it means to be a Roman Catholic. What is also as predictable as hot weather in July in Miami Beach are the stories that festoon the liberal, secular, mainstream media about a “church in conflict” whenever a new pope is about to be chosen.

The occasion of John Paul’s death provides a great jumping off point for those who dissent from the Church’s teachings and dogmas, for the simple reason that John Paul was too faithful to those eternal truths. Now, before I go any further, please understand that as a Reformed Protestant, I am not one to defend the Catholic Church’s teachings on many things. What I can, and as a matter of intellectual integrity, must do, is affirm that the Church does, in fact, put forward its teachings and dogmas in fairly clear fashion.

Today’s front page article in the Washington Post is typical of the genre of “good pope, bad pope” argumentation. John Paul is lauded for his (generally) anti-war stands, and for any time he has been remotely critical of nasty old capitalism. Here he is the “good pope.” But, oh, when he stands firm in the gap on protecting unborn life, and against homosexual behavior, and against the ordination of women, watch out. Worse than this, he was firm against “liberation theology”, recognizing it for what it was — a stalking horse for communist would-be dictators. Bad pope. Bad, bad pope — didn’t JP realize that we are now in the 21st century? How dare he stand against the currents of modernity?

Some of the usual suspects are cited in this Post article; two priests who were basically fired as Catholic theologians because, well, they may be brilliant theologians, but they were apparently not meeting the Catholic Church’s standards for such. One of them, the prolix author and liberal theologian Hans Kung noted:

“Many people are now hoping for a pope who will seriously free up the log-jam of reforms” and “have the courage to make a new start.”

Note how it takes courage to “make a new start.” Perhaps John Paul showed courage by resisting trendiness? It’s possible, don’t you think?

Again, I hold no brief for much of Catholic dogma although there is much I affirm as being solidly biblical (and hence true). I also personally find Catholic piety to be, well, not my cup of java. And that Marian thing…But I’m Protestant. I never claim to be Catholic when I criticize the Church. My advice to Catholics who would prefer women priests, abortion on demand, full rights and privileges, including ordination, for practicing homosexuals? Join the Episcopal Church or Unitarians.

Rev. Augustine DiNoia, an American priest who is the second-ranking official in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, summed it up rather nicely:

“In theology as in softball,” DiNoia said, “you can’t play the game if you don’t agree on the rules.”

Dissent can be a good thing, and those who claim that dissent is ignored in the Roman Catholic Church have perhaps not been paying close attention to what John Paul did and did not do over his long tenure. Loyal dissent does not mean that your point of view is accepted. Just that it is heard.

Those who feel that dissenters such as Hans Kung have been trampled on, well, you are wrong. It’s one thing to publish your point of view, which the liberals have been doing for decades. It’s quite another to expect to have the Church endorse what it disagrees with by granting you its imprimatur. Kung and others are free to publish; just not with the Church’s blessing.

Once again, the Church is eternal, and John Paul attempted to retain what he viewed as eternal truths. Truths not subject to a politically correct litmus test; truths that don’t sway and bend with the winds. Those who do not accept those truths, keep on trying to change the Church — or leave. If one stays Roman Catholic because of the belief that the Roman Church is the one true church — well, I know you are wrong, but hey, everyone’s entitled to their opinion. On the other hand, if you believe it to be the one true church and thus blessed by the Holy Spirit, then why would you think that the Holy Spirit needs to accomodate Himself to modern trends?

Just asking.

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