Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sede Vacante: Let the Conclave begin!

A lot of people have asked me, "What’s the deal with the Pope?”

There seems to be an unlimited supply of conspiracy theories and alleged scandals floating around the media—from the Pope fleeing both assassination threats and warrants for his arrest to the Pope finally throwing in the towel and caving to the never ending pederasty cover-up accusations. All of the allegations are, of course, backed by definitive proofs! This goes to show that when it comes to the Catholic Church, the National Enquirer is tied for the most accurate secular news source. (See news stands for the hidden story behind the papal tumult as the Enquirer goes behind the scenes at the Vatican in "Exclusive cover story: Pope Brain Cancer Bombshell.")

However, I’m inclined to believe what the man said. He is old and feeble. He can’t travel around the world the way he used to—he has a pacemaker and has been seen using a walker. And watch the poor man try to use an iPad. (See how he pushes the button and nothing happens?? Ugh. Now I feel like an 85 year old.)

However, I did read this article speculating that the Blessed Virgin Mary asked Pope Benedict XVI to abdicate. (That sounds crazy. But I assure you it’s not. ;o) She talks to both crazy people and sane people.) Early in his Papacy, Benedict asked for prayers that he would not succumb to the ‘wolves’, which many feel referred to certain Vatican officials who habitually opposed the Pope, partly due to aversion to change. (Scheming bureaucrats hindering fruitful progress? We have those kinds of wolves in North America too.) The author suggests that the time is right for a new, invigorated Pope who will lay the smack down on the wolves and get them out of there. I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

After talking with some coworkers I discovered they were most confused about the matter of Papal Infallibility and how a person can go from being fallible to (pretending to be) perfect and then back to fallible again. I tried to explain that the Pope is infallible only in relation to faith and morals, under very specific circumstances, so long as he is in agreement with teachings that have been passed on for the last two millennia… and that such infallible statements have almost never been proclaimed anyway. I told them that the underlying belief is that the Holy Spirit is trusted to work through the Pope (whether he’s good or evil) to ensure that the faith does not become corrupted from what was passed on by the early Church. The infallibility is not attached to the person but to the office. So the Holy Spirit uses whoever happens to be in the office of Pope to maintain orthodoxy through infallible statements, if necessary. Here's a cartoon illustration of how the Holy Spirit might prevent a stubborn Pope from 'infallibly' issuing a fallible statement:

The thing to remember is that the man in the Chair of Peter certainly does not have to be perfect. And, in fact, in Galatians Chapter 2, St. Paul says that upon meeting Peter he “opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.” In the end, Peter conceded to Paul that Christians are allowed to eat bacon (among other things). However, with respect to Papal Infallibility, we believe that if Peter had felt the need to deliberate on the matter and pray about it and utter a binding and infallible statement, the Holy Spirit would have led him to the same conclusion, regardless of whether or not Paul called him out on it. Now that Benedict XVI is no longer Pope, the matter of infallibility just doesn’t apply to him anymore, although nothing has changed regarding his personal degree of perfection.

The fact that a Pope hasn’t abdicated in so long (centuries!) makes it surprising, but not scandalous. Now ensues the media frenzy of trying to guess the next Pope. This is a hopeless task due to the fact that those in conclave do (gasp!) pray about it, and through prayer may be inclined to choose someone they would not have picked based on a list of pros and cons. A friend of mine recently returned from Africa. She was there when Pope Benedict announced his intention to abdicate and the local Cardinal made the statement that "if an African is chosen as Pope it's not because it is 'our turn' but because of the Holy Spirit." Well said!

Since I only know the names of about four Cardinals (none of whom Sarah Jones would elect as Pope), I can’t really join in the guessing. But fortunately, this year there is an app to ‘adopt’ a Cardinal to pray for before and during the conclave. Mine is 75 year old Audrys Juozas Bačkis of Lithuania. I had never heard of him before so I don’t know how to pronounce his name, but I feel like we have a pretty good chance of winning. ;o) He’s kind of a cute old guy AND he speaks English. “VOTE FOR ANDRYS—WEREWOLF SLAYER!”

I won’t pretend to understand how a conclave works. But if anybody is interested, here is an imperfect, but close enough, cartoon explanation.

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