Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Pope in retrospect

One of the things that has disgusted me for the past 15 years or so is criticism of John Paul II based upon his "failure" to "modernize" the church. The Roman Catholic Church (and The Monk is not a member) is either conservative or worthless, there is no in-between. Indeed, to a large degree that is the nature of religious belief: certain things are moral and correct and should not be changed in to accommodate the swirling and uncertain whims of the flock.

For instance, the Ten Commandments are moral precepts that cannot be modified, whether they comport with your convenience or not. There are five that ordain the relationship between G-d and man: (1) one G-d; (2) no worshipping idols; (3) no taking the Holy Name in vain; (4) honoring the day of worship; (5) honoring thy mother and father (for by G-d's grace they made you. There are five that ordain the relationship between man and his neighbor: (6) do not murder; (7) do not adulter; (8) do not steal; (9) do not bear false witness; (10) do not covet (instead you should EARN). Under what circumstances are these mutable or should they be?

The Pope treated the Catholic Canon, to which he was an enormous contributor, with respect and to a large degree the force of law. He did not seek wiggle room, did not alter the law to match the morality of the times, and did not seek to accommodate the wavering Catholic. Instead, he did what he should have done: stated the moral and theological position of the Church and said it is the duty of Catholics to conform to it, not the Church's duty to conform to them. Whether you agree or not, the Pope was entirely correct to hold to those principles of his faith despite the changing times. Those who were disappointed that the Church did not modify morality to meet modernity have only themselves to blame.

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