Welcome to the latest chapter in the dramatic chronicles of The Catholic Church.
By Rachel James (Treasurer/Writer/Non-Catholic)
Talk about giving something up for Lent...
Painting by Br. Michael O'Neill McGrath, O.S.F.S.
First time a Pope resigns since 1415 and the discovery of the skeleton of Richard III (who died in 1485) in a parking lot. I don’t know about you, but I think the big trend in 2013 is going to be the 15th century!
Now it hasn’t been that long since the conclave of cardinals have gotten together to elect a new pope. Pope Benedict XVI was only elected in 2005, so it is not that distant of a memory. Do we need a refresher?
Although I am not Catholic myself, my mother was raised Catholic and I have a few relatives who are nuns and priests.
And let me take this moment to point out that even though my name in Rachel and I grew up in New York, I am, shockingly, not Jewish.
I grew up Episcopalian, which we jokingly called Catholic Lite. The Catholic mass and the Episcopal mass have a lot of similarities to them. For one, there are a lot of rites and rituals that are observed and presented in what one might call an “ornate” fashion. There are also similar beliefs around baptism, communion, and the Holy Trinity.
But one thing that always seemed quite different between the Catholic and Episcopal church was the disconnect between what the Church stands for and who their followers actually are. I’ll give one example: who can become priests and what their lives can entail. In the Catholic church, priests can only be men and they must remain celibate. In the Episcopal church, priests can be men or women, single or married, gay or straight. Granted this can vary between dioceses (and there are very conservative Episcopal dioceses in the world), but the rules aren’t as stringent. And they allow for change with time.
Image from Enlightened Catholicism
With the election of the new Pope, there’s the idea that the choice of the college of cardinals might bring the Catholic church into the 21st century. It’s already pretty radical that Pope Benedict XVI looked at his life and his health, and decided he wasn’t up to the job anymore. Also, to make the announcement right before Lent, the holiest of holy times in the Christian calendar, was pretty shocking as well.
But the big question is... who’s going to be the new passenger in the Pope-mobile? Perhaps they will choose someone from Latin America or Africa, to reflect their ever expanding congregation. Pope John Paul II (predecessor to Pope Benedict XVI) was the first Pope not from Italy in 500 YEARS! So, you know, sometimes the Catholic church needs time for change.
Or maybe this will bring about an even greater change. Might the Catholic church take this as an opportunity to address the abuse crisis and apologize for its part in covering it up? Or allow priests to marry? Or perhaps allow female priests, bless the use of contraception, or accept LGBT members into a congregation where they already exist?
Just making sure you’re still paying attention.
is a native New Yorker and theatre baby. Her plays have been produced by The 52nd Street Project and Starfish Theatreworks. She currently makes a living as a Broadway treasurer.
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