View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

habemus papam

I was in the new car I was buying (appropriately, cardinal red) when I heard about the selection of Cardinal Josef Ratzinger as the next pope.

My initial reaction was “What!?”

But then, I laughed.

Let me explain.

For years, many progressive Catholics (myself included) have viewed Cardinal Ratzinger with distrust. My own diocese (Rochester, NY) has had run-ins with him (Father Charles Curran, for example, is a priest of our diocese.)

We considered him a panzerkardinal, a Grand Inquisitor, an ecclesial boogeyman.

We found him a convenient scapegoat for our dismay at some of the pronouncements coming out of the Vatican in recent years on a variety of issues near to our hearts (ordination of women, for example).

Surely it was the “Rat man,” and not the beloved Pope John Paul II, behind these hard-line stances?

And as the late pontiff grew sicker and frailer, some suggested that the German cardinal was really running the show.

Some people also speculated with hope that once John Paul passed on to his reward, the iron fist of the Cardinal Ratzinger would lose its grip on the church’s windows, and they would fly open to let in their particular versions of fresh air.

Their wish was that he would finally be granted his own oft- stated dream of retiring to Bavaria.

All very simplistic, and not quite fair, I admit.

As for the possibility of him being elected pope?

Not long before the conclave I was talking with a friend who belongs to the nation’s second largest denomination, ex-Catholics. We both viewed the possibility of a Ratzinger papacy with horror. I don’t recall my exact words, but I basically said it might be a disaster for the church.

It’s amazing how certain a few beers can make you.

But now that moment that made me laugh.

It was not with delight because I am a fan of the new pope.

It’s because I believe this choice just proves what I have been saying all along: God has a sense of humor.


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