Jewish World Review April 22, 2005 / 13 Nisan, 5765
Will new pope have an epiphany?
The elevation of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to head the Roman
Catholic Church is a clear and concise message from the College of
Cardinals: "We are royally teed off."
Everybody knows that the new pontiff is a tough guy who will not
only throw the moneychangers out of the temple, he'll kick them in the
behind as they leave the building. Pope Benedict believes strongly in good
and evil, and he's not shy about pointing fingers. His letter to American
bishops about politicians and abortion cost John Kerry dearly in the last
The cardinals, of course, perfectly understand that Benedict is
not exactly a cuddly guy and will not be "reaching out," as they say in
California. But his hard-line theological approach appeals to church elders
who have had enough.
In the past three decades, church attendance in the USA and
Western Europe has dropped through the floor. Just 25 percent of American
Catholics attend mass weekly, and the number is in the single digits in
longstanding Catholic countries like France. Secularism now rules the
western world, and there are not enough priests to serve the remaining
faithful. How do you say things are not good in Latin?
In the face of this spiritual decline, the Catholic Church has
decided to make a stand. It will not compromise, and it will not pander. You
either toe the line or hit the bricks. Up to you.
As a lifelong Catholic, I don't like this approach, but I
understand it. The West is now besieged by forces that want to wipe
spirituality completely out of the public square. The American Civil
Liberties Union (ACLU) is the point organization in this effort. It supports
all abortion on demand, including late-term, no parental consent for minors
having abortions, euthanasia with consent, gay marriage and the free speech
rights of the North American Man-Boy Love Association, which has posted
instructions on how to rape children on its website.
The ACLU opposes public funding for the Boy Scouts because their
oath mentions G-d, the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, public
displays of the baby Jesus at Christmas and any restraint on Internet
pornography in public libraries.
For the most part, the western media sympathizes with the ACLU
and promotes its point of view. Thus, the secular message is a constant in
our society the hits just keep on coming.
And where is the opposing point of view? Well, there are a few
media outlets that give traditionalists a fair shake, but very few.
So the Catholic cardinals feel isolated and surrounded. They can
preach to the choir on Sunday but get battered by the news and entertainment
media the rest of the week. A strong papal voice countering that situation
is soothing. And that's why Cardinal Ratzinger is now Pope Benedict XVI.
I believe organized religion can be a champion of human rights
and provide resistance to secular societies, which, if they progress much
further, will never be able to defeat the fanatical Islamic fundamentalists.
The more permissive the western world becomes, the more it rejects
discipline and avoids confronting evil, the greater the danger to freedom
Pope Benedict is facing a rapidly changing world, and perhaps he
will be a strong and persuasive shepherd against evil. The danger is that he
will be so rigid that he will erode the spiritual core even further, thereby
helping the secularists.
But the new pope may have an epiphany and realize good people
will rally against evil if the case of clear and present danger is made
rationally and with compassion. I am praying that happens. The other side is
hoping it will not.
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