/* Style Definitions */
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
Local News: First Presbyterian Church of Jackson will sponsor "Caring for Caregivers" on Tuesday, February 19 at 11:30 in Miller Hall. The First Pres. web site describes this event as "a series of seminars to encourage and equip those caring for loved ones who are unable to manage completely on their own." The cost for lunch will be $6. For registration information, call 601-353-8316 or email email@example.com.
In Part I, we began looking at Father Andrew Greeley’s book, The Making of the Pope: 2005 (Little Brown and Company, 2005). Taking issue with conservative Catholics who adored Pope John Paul II and approve of Benedict XVI insofar as his papacy has been reminiscent of the late Polish Pope, Greeley speaks for the more progressive wing within American Catholicism, forecasting much pessimism regarding Benedict XVI’s election.
1. Division between traditionalists and progressives
Greeley freely confesses his own view that the Holy Spirit doesn’t specially select who the Pope will be, and he cites examples of corruption and simony throughout the ages to prove it. One gets the impression that Greeley is so cynical about papal leadership that one wonders what on earth has kept him from becoming a Protestant. All of the standard arguments Protestant apologists use to debunk papal infallibility are used by Greeley. Yet he still believes that the Bishop of Rome is uniquely the head of all Christendom. One has to wonder what motivates such Catholics to stay. Greeley believes the Church, though it professes to be otherwise, is a changing institution, as he cites the Church’s shifting policies on slavery, religious freedom, and the death penalty.
Keeping in mind that the Pope represents a global communion of one billion Catholics, and keeping human nature in mind, it’s no wonder that there are factions and divisions within the Church. Whatever Vatican II did, it didn’t undo Vatican I, which once for all set down papal infallibility as a dogma. Indeed, considering that papal infallibility was spelled out to mean that Popes, without consultation of bishops or affirmation of an ecumenical council, could speak directly as God’s mouthpiece, 19th century church historian Phillip Schaff was doubtful at the time that there ever would even be another ecumenical council. What could be gained, he argued, by having a council, if the Pope can unilaterally and infallibly pronounce dogma?
As Greeley shows, some Catholics feel more comfortable with Vatican I—centralized authority, papal infallibility, etc. —and some feel more comfortable with Vatican II—openness to the outside world, ecumenism to Protestants, collegiality among bishops, etc. Both councils are part of Catholic tradition, so neither can simply be ignored. Though liberal Catholics disagree, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI both saw themselves as accurately applying Vatican II’s reforms of. Ironically, though councils are supposed to bring added clarity to the Church, often councils are open to so many varying interpretations that in their wake clarity remains elusive.
4. 2. Conclusion: An evangelical response
It is troubling how often Greeley uses “she” and “her” when speaking of the Holy Spirit. As mainline churches move further away from the Biblical, masculine terminology describing God the Father (going so far as to replace “Himself” with the awkward “Godself”), evangelicals are understandably suspicious of attempts to feminize the terminology when speaking of the Godhead. Though misconceptions exist, Scripture never speaks of the Spirit in feminine terms (or masculine, for that matter—the Greek New Testament word is actually a neuter word for which there is no equivalent in English). Greeley acknowledges the Pope would no doubt disapprove of his pronoun choice when speaking of the Spirit, but he doesn’t seem to mind.
Though many evangelicals were sympathetic to them, Greeley scoffs at the efforts of some American bishops in 2004 to ban presidential contender John Kerry from Holy Communion due to his pro-abortion stance. He seems, to say the least, conflicted about Roman Catholicism’s pro-life movement in general. In hindsight, one can see that Benedict XVI’s papacy has been for the most part as “conservative” as Greeley feared it would.
As the Roman Catholic Church prepares to elect a new pope next month, one can’t help but feel sorry for whoever is selected. The new Pope will need to be someone who can learn from the mistakes of his predecessors. Perhaps Greeley had a point when saying that recent popes have come across as more shrill than pastoral when making pronouncements. Perhaps left-leaning Catholics have felt compelled to lean that way due to what they perceived as insensitivity by the right. If such is the case, the next Pope would do well to ponder such things. Similar to the crisis in the Anglican Communion, the next Pope will be in the awkward position of trying to mediate between opposing sides on so many fronts. He won’t be able to please everybody and will likely despair at times of pleasing anybody.
Though they of course are unsympathetic to Benedict XVI’s Roman Catholic doctrine of justification—not to mention other doctrines that were at stake during the Reformation— evangelicals for the most part, contrary to liberal Catholics, applaud Benedict XVI’s stance for orthodoxy (the Apostles’ Creed) and Biblical morality. It would have been very easy for Benedict XVI to have caved in on the deity of Christ, the authority of Scripture, sexual ethics, abortion, etc. Thankfully, he didn’t.