Right, I just *had* to post a link to this picture of our new pope over at a new blog I just discovered, Seven Mountains (geesh my blog list is getting long!). Absolutely without a doubt the best picture of him I've ever seen. I said in my comments about the papal funeral that then Cardinal Ratzinger's eyes always sort of give me the creeps (not exactly sure why), but in this picture he looks downright warm and fuzzy.
His election has put me in that all-too-familiar place smack in the middle between the glee of the conservatives I go to church with and the horror of the liberals I hang out with. And even among those liberal Catholics, I find I'm in the middle there as well. Some are waiting, hoping that he'll turn out to actually be more liberal now that he's not having to play the bad guy as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Others are certain the apocalypse (well, if liberals actually believed in it) is at hand.
You know what folks? The sky is not falling but I have no expectations that the new pope is going to lighten up on, say, homosexuality or contraception anytime soon. He's the same ol' same ol' basically. And we all survived John Paul II and were indeed helped by his strong stands against war, as we have been and will be by Pope Benedict's. As Talmida over at The Lesser of Two Weevils (another brilliant blog added to the list) pointed out, the first pope, Peter, denied Christ three times and he still got the job and the Church did okay. For those of you still stunned about how the Holy Spirit could have selected him, consider these words:
“I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the pope. ... I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined...There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit would obviously not have picked.”Spoken in 1997 by none other than a lowly cardinal from Bavaria now known as Pope Benedict XVI.
Change takes time, and though that is hard for those who don't have ready access to a priest because married or women priests are not allowed to make up for the shortage, or for homosexuals who are still made to feel profoundly unwelcome in the life of the Church, or especially for those dying of AIDS in Africa because of the Church's ban on contraception, do consider that the Church is no longer burning uppity women or homosexuals at the stake and there are priests who are courageously helping to provide condoms as well as comfort to AIDS-stricken Africa. And after looking at how fucked up things are getting with the Anglican/Episcopalian Church as they deal with these issues, I daresay a bit of caution may be merited.