Papal Traditions


As we all know, the leader of the Catholic Church, known by the rather self-aggrandizing title of Pope, has resigned effective 28 February 2013.   One can have good fun laughing at the incident as Cobert and Stewart did on Comedy Central.  Or make the standard jokes:

When his exit interviewer asked, “Reason for leaving?” did the former pope answer, “No opportunity for promotion?”

One can also question why he resigned and possible legal action that could be taken for activities under his watch. Reuters is reporting that

Pope Benedict’s decision to live in the Vatican after he resigns will provide him with security and privacy. It will also offer legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him in connection with sexual abuse cases around the world, Church sources and legal experts say.

There has also been serious discussion about what that means for the future of the church, to which most agree is nothing. That is, the church will remain the same institution, refusing any movement on the inclusion of women or openly GLBT in the priesthood.  The non-married men in charge of the church will continue to oppose contraception with no understanding of what it means to raise a family or face the financial burdens of multiple mouths to feed without the backing to a multi-billion dollar institution that all Cardinals enjoy.

And, why?  The stock answer is because of tradition. One commentator summed it up on the P-G website with the comment that “Jesus chose men to lead the church” so that is what we are stuck with.  It is tradition.

Let’s think about that tradition for, oh, two seconds. For centuries, in every western democracy, it was “traditional” that women could not vote.  In the US, it was “traditional” that African-Americans could not play Major League baseball.  Times change and it seems impossible to imagine having lived in a society under those absurd rules just one or two generations ago.

There were also traditions, long dropped, that were much more evil. Slavery was supported by the Catholic Church for over a thousand years.

Dum Diversas is a papal bull issued on 18 June 1452 by Pope Nicholas V, that is credited by some with “ushering in the West African slave trade.” It authorized Afonso V of Portugal to conquer Saracens and pagans and consign them to “perpetual slavery.” Pope Calixtus III reiterated the bull in 1456 with Etsi cuncti, renewed by Pope Sixtus IV in 1481 and Pope Leo X in 1514 with Precelse denotionis.

Marriage to girls as young as 8 was officially approved by the church in Decretum Gratiani, a collection of Canon Laws that remained on the books until 1918:

In the 12th century Gratian, the influential founder of Canon law in medieval Europe, accepted age of puberty for marriage to be between 12 and 14 but acknowledged consent to be meaningful if the children were older than 7.

Even the imprisonment of Galelio was determined to be a mistake by the church, 350 years after he died in prison for being a heretic for claiming the Earth circled the Sun and not the other away around.

The dispute between the Church and Galileo has long stood as one of history’s great emblems of conflict between reason and dogma, science and faith. The Vatican’s formal acknowledgement of an error, moreover, is a rarity in an institution built over centuries on the belief that the Church is the final arbiter in matters of faith.

But what about religion practices? Just fifty years ago, it hard to imagine why the Pope would ride around in a Popemobile (especially given the utmost protection of an all-loving God).  Fifty years ago, the Pope did not use twitter or email, but now he does.  Using the same logic that Jesus did not communicate by email, you wonder what justification is there for the Pope to use it today.

But the biggest tradition is that Popes do not resign.  They serve until death.  There is no retirement plan.  It has been tradition for 600 years!!!  But perhaps the tweeting, emailing, Popemobiling pontiff can give up the charade that tradition is everything. The world has changed.  Communication has changed.  Society has changed.  There is no good reason left to not to allow women priests, not to allow married priests, not to allow GLBT priests, and not to allow atheist priests.  (Ok, perhaps not the last one, but one can still dream).

The point is societies do change.  Standards do change.  And until the popedom rejects all modern developments, he needs to stop rejecting the ones that hurt society the most.

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About SamStone

A Steel City Skeptic who thinks science and reason is the light that we should follow to find our way in this world.
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3 Responses to Papal Traditions

  1. Mike Newell says:

    Now we have revelations emerging from some influential
    Italian newspapers, that would explain Joseph Ratzinger’s
    sudden, inexplicable departure, setting a 600 year precedent!
    A sorry, sordid Roman tale of priests, prostitutes, prelates and blackmail!
    Apparently when he read a red, secret 200 page dossier on 17 December
    He resigned on the spot, so that his successor would have the lousy job
    of trying to clear up the mess, and endeavour to salvage the Vatican’s
    “Good reputation”!
    I have a copy of a fascinating book “In God’s Name”,
    written by a reputable investigative journalist who delved deep into a previous
    Vatican scandal…about that relatively recent Pope John Paul I, who was on the throne
    a mere 33 days before being found dead in bed. He was showing clear signs
    that he was going to prove to be a very PROGRESSIVE Pope… and the
    Catholic Hierarchy couldn’t stomach the prospect of Catholicism actually
    catching up with the times….and so we’ve witnessed these subsequent years
    of sexual abuse, top level cover-ups and countless young lives tormented and
    countless millions spent on hush money, while the perpetrators were simply
    moved to another diocese, to continue doing what they’d done before.
    Interestingly, this writer David Yallop, in his investigation, interviewed
    The Vatican’s Bank Manager in Milan, who was very helpful and cooperative
    UNTIL he learned that David was going to write a book…Immediately his
    demeanor drastically changed and he said “Don’t write this book. If you do,
    I warn you, you won’t live to see it published”. Just a few days later,
    that same Bank Manager, was found hanging underneath London’s
    Waterloo Bridge. FACT. (The book has sold well over 6 million copies!)
    And what d’you bet that the conclave will elect THE most conservative,
    reactionary, retrogressive red-robed Cardinal they can find!

  2. Dan M. says:

    I take comfort legitimately or not, by looking at religion’s capacity to adapt (hats off to Darwin for the methodology). Pederast priests exist. So do their victims. A woman’s body is her liberty. GLBT persons are not ignoble. That stagnant behemoth of a religion can’t find ways to pound these round pegs into its square holes. It purposefully and powerfully shun’s and denies our evolving society only to adhere to its dogma. But is it losing ground as a result? Is there merit in not fighting catholicism’s rejection of the modern world so that it might one day find itself starving for an audience?

  3. revelmundo says:

    Other traditions not discussed here but critical to the job:

    * Willingness to saddle-up with ruthless dictators.
    * Ability to turn a blind eye to the most immense human suffering highly desirable.
    * Unfamiliarity with the concept of genocide most desirable.
    * Expertise in stake making and iron rack construction methods is a big plus.
    * Ability and willingness to cruelly suppress and persecute any lover of wisdom.
    * Must demonstrate expertise with tongue gouging, disembowelment and fire setting techniques.
    * Ability to rapidly identify witches and heretics a major plus.
    * Slow, mesmerizing, zombie-like hand waving style critical

    A more complete list of qualifications can be found HERE —->
    http://www.ftarchives.net/foote/crimes/contents.htm#contents

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