Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

    Pope must allow balance

    I had heard of the Popemobile, but not until Pope Benedict’s recent trip to the United States did I have the opportunity to see it. Any quirk of image the Popemobile causes is swiftly excused because everyone would rather see the Pope behind bullet-proof glass than see him come to any harm. Such is the tale of modern life, is it not?

    I confess I am no expert on Catholicism, papal goings-on, Pope Benedict or any of his predecessors. I did, however, attend a Catholic high school for four years which, even if it didn’t convert me, engendered in me a respect for the Catholic tradition.

    I am told the Catholicism of today is watered down and secularized as a result of Vatican II, and still it seems to me that the culture of Catholicism is impressive in its beauty and structure. I can only imagine how much greater were these elements when the mass was still spoken in Latin (oh, to hear a Latin mass!) and Catholic sub-culture was so strong that its unfamiliarity caused apprehension and fear to those outside. JFK, after all, felt compelled to give a speech at once declaring his Catholicism to be outside of public purview and reassuring hesitant voters that he would not take orders from the Pope. He said he believed in an America “where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote” precisely because that was the division that threatened his candidacy for President.

    Now, it seems, the secularization that occurred as a result of Vatican II (which JFK might have benefited from) has put a pebble in Pope Benedict’s red papal shoes. “To the extent that religion becomes a purely private affair, it loses its very soul,” Pope Benedict said in an address on Wednesday, April 16. Pope Benedict’s willingness to simultaneously laud America for its ability to reconcile secular culture with religion (as he did in the same address) and imply that religion should be a more public aspect of American culture seems like a contradiction in terms.

    But this is not my main concern. I am concerned with how Pope Benedict rejects the notion that Catholicism in its present form is not true, that Catholics who use birth control or have abortions (and there are some that do, as I cited in last week’s article on abortion) are not true Catholics, that they are somehow sullying Catholicism. Catholicism puts an emphasis on tradition, pre- or post-Vatican II, that is hard to get rid of. I know this because even I, a non-religious person, miss the masses I grew used to during high school. As long as Catholicism is a way of life and not only a set of beliefs, then its followers are going to have connections to both aspects, cultural and religious.

    Furthermore, the idea that “private” religion is soulless denies an individual’s ability to make moral choices and reduces the broad spectrum of realities in this world to two colors, black and white. You cannot be a Catholic and use birth control or have premarital sex, says the Pope, if not in so many words. I know Catholics who have done both, who love the Catholic Church and experience life outside it. If Pope Benedict wants Catholics to return to the public community of Catholicism, that’s fine, but to do so with the thinking that practical realities of today’s society can be simply left behind, well, that’s like…that’s like trying to be one with the people while riding around in a glass fortress. But I guess the Pope does that, too.

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