Papal Benefits

The Pope’s visit is stimulating a lot of different reactions on many fronts, even if the drama of the sexual abuse issue tends to hog the media’s attention. Another appreciative response for me is focused on Benedict’s active support of the UN and its international work on human rights. American super patriots who resist the international organization as a threat to US sovereignty are receiving a symbolic message. In the same vein it is heartening to read the Pope’s praise of America’s secular system of government which he says ensures freedom of religious conscience and thereby furthers religious life. Who could have predicted that the pre-Vatican II church’s positions on church-state relations could evolve so drastically? It is instructive to see this Pope exercising his Petrine ministry in the church so well. Liberal Catholics tend to forget that we are blessed to have an authoritative voice from the center speaking for the whole community and telling the world that certain practices and policies are not Christian. No suicide bombing, torture or preventive wars can be accepted: no neglect of the poor, immigrants or the vulnerable can be justified. Of course the faithful, including gospel feminists like myself, may disagree in conscience on certain non infallible teachings and continue to push for more reform and evolution of doctrine. But in the meantime Catholics can be grateful for the gift of a teaching authority. Hear this everyone, as of today, here is where we stand. But alas, my positive responses to the Pope’s visit do not include a desire to join in the celebratory fiesta side of events. By temperament and vocation I’m just too self-conscious and work oriented to take time to go out there, let go, dance in the streets or shout out for joy in crowds. I see this resistance to celebration as a personal failing. Huge, long, happy demonstrations of loyalty and affection are a good thing, but just not my cup of tea. At least, not yet. Sidney Callahan
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