Reason #9: The Pope
Not the person, or even the personality - but the station.
Like the Queen in England - the Pope, is the living legacy to the reality of the history of the Church. The authority of the Apostles personified.
I don't like all of the Popes - let's face it, some of them were downright scoundrels!!! But, some of the Popes were game changers and worthy of great veneration.
The Pope, like the President of the United States, is a normal human being who represents the power and the purpose of his calling. You may not like a particular President, because of his personality, his politics or for some other reason - but you cannot, in honesty, disrespect the office of the President. It is a position that represents the culmination of the democratic history of the United States of America. The Pope, in the same way, represents the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus to the Apostles to establish the kingdom of God on earth, and as the icon of the innkeeper in the parable of the good samaritan - the Pope is given charge of the Church (represented by the injured man):
"‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’" - Luke 25:35
PERSONALITY VS. PRINCIPLE
The previously presiding Pope, Benedict XIV, came under serious attack by many, both inside and outside the Church, for his alleged involvement in a conspiracy to suppress evidence in the settlement of the child abuse scandal. This situation will probably be unfolding for many years and whatever the result, there is no excusing the actions of the abusers and certainly no way of assessing the physical, emotional and spiritual harm that they've done to the children involved. It has done so much to wound the reputation of the Church. It is not the first scandalous abuse of power by the Church, and, unfortunately, it will probably not be the last; as long as human beings are involved in it!!!
The judgement of Pope Benedict XVI’s personal innocence or guilt is not in my hands, and I cannot but feel sad that there should even be the possibility that he has failed to live up to his responsibility. But...and I offer this thought tentatively toward those who are NOT Catholic as a point to ponder... no matter what the historical verdict might ultimately be, it is important to understand that for authority to be abused - it is logically necessary to acknowledge or affirm that the authority was rightfully his in the first place.
THE RIGHT TO AUTHORITY?
What I’m defending here, is not the personality or character of Pope Benedict XVI, but rather pointing to the fact that, as many non-Catholics and even non-Christians are loudly proclaiming - if, as they say, he has abused his power and his AUTHORITY - then, by default there is perhaps an unwitting confession by them of the validity of THE AUTHORITY of the Pope as the pastoral earthly caretaker of the Church!
The world has seen a huge share of corrupted leaders:
- Deceitful politicians
- Unscrupulous businesses
- Morally depraved and hypocritical government leaders
- Vicious and cruel Kings, Queens and Rulers
- Corrupt Popes and Church leaders
- Abusive Parents and Caregivers
The list goes on and on - this is the nature of humanity. It’s worth considering that Jesus was betrayed by one of his chosen disciples.....and was crucified by the acknowledged religious authorities and spiritual role-models of his day.
DO WHAT THEY SAY - NOT WHAT THEY DO
What did Jesus say about the religious authority of those who ultimately ordered his crucifixion?:
"Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach.’” - St. Matthew 23: 1-3
Over the years this passage has been used as justification for condemnation of the Catholic Church and for rejection of its authority. However, notice that even though Jesus condemned the ACTIONS of the Pharisees - he AFFIRMED strongly their right to claim the “seat of Moses” and the authority of religious and spiritual leadership. He condemned their hypocrisy but not their position.
The failure of a democratically elected leader, should not cause us to doubt the value of democracy and the actions of the exception should not tarnish the worth of the rule.
Christianity is not based on the personality, or morality of its earthly representatives, but on the example of Christ who reveals to us who we can be through the manifestation of the grace of God.
Being a Catholic is not subscribing to a personality cult built around the character of any Pope - but rather learning to trust in the power of God to transform people through the grace of Jesus Christ manifested in and through the community of faith; The Church, that Christ authorized to care for his people until he “returned."
"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’” - St. Matthew 16:18-19
|Insignia of Pope Francis I|