Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Of Matters Papal

As a non-Catholic, I don't have much to say about the crowning of a new Pope. As a fairly non-religious liberal, I'm not particularly thrilled by the election of a guy who is apparently a hard-line conservative. The Pope has little direct impact upon my personal life, so it's just not that big a deal to me.

One thing that I've seen mentioned in a number of places about Benedict XVI is that he apparently had some role in the Catholic Church's less-than-forceful response to the sex scandals that have afflicted its Priests in recent years. I too find it a tad difficult to take seriously the pronouncements against "moral relativism" of a Church whose position on such matters seems to be grounded in "practical relativism", but -- well, he's not my anointed spiritual leader, so there it is. (By the way, like Matthew Yglesias, I'm a bit tired of the whole business of decrying seemingly every non-conservative Christian position on any issue as "moral relativism".)

The announcement of the Pope's election came while I was at lunch at The Store yesterday. The TV in the cafe was turned way up so we could hear it, and to be quite honest, I found it hard not to be caught up in the emotion of the event. For one thing, this is the first coronation of a Pope during my lifetime that I'm really aware of, since John Paul II was elected when I was five or six (I'm not bothering to look it up). Of course, given the new Pope's age, I suspect we'll be seeing this spectacle a lot sooner than it took for this one. And one thing I've always wanted to do is to just be in some large European city when all the church bells are ringing. I wonder what it must be like, to be in Rome, waiting for the word to come. I imagine sitting in some cafe somewhere, sipping espresso, reading and talking and doing whatever, and hearing first the shouts -- "The smoke is white!" -- followed by the ringing of all those bells. If I'm ever rich, maybe I'll go to Rome during a Papal conclave just to see it happen. You don't need to be a believer to see the beauty of the event.

(But then, I also have to admit a certain bit of perversion -- at one point during the festivities, the TV displayed a shot taken from behind the new Pope as he waved down at his flock, and I briefly thought of the scene in The Two Towers when Saruman sent his orc armies off to war against Rohan. "A new power is rising--!")

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