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Politics The Abdication of Benedict: Whither Catholicism?

Discussion in 'Tilted Philosophy, Politics, and Economics' started by Levite, Feb 12, 2013.

  1. Levite

    Levite Levitical Yet Funky

    The Windy City
    The announcement by Pope Benedict XIV that he is resigning the papacy, effective February 28, is a huge change for the Catholic Church (which has one and a quarter billion adherents). This is one of the rare voluntary abdications by a sitting pope (I can only think of two or three others, and none in the last several centuries), and, as this excellent piece of coverage by NPR astutely points out, it blows open a series of potential conversations that the Vatican might engage in, resulting in various different routes the Conclave of Cardinal Electors might take in appointing the next pope, who very likely will reign for much longer than Benedict (who was understood from the beginning as an "interim" or "caretaker" pope).

    I post this thread to the political forum not only because the Vatican is a country, and the pope an important head of state, but also because the shifts in the Catholic church represent an interesting sociological tension in the world populace.

    Catholicism, in terms both of numbers of adherents and "strength" of adherence amongst its flock, is taking it in the nuts in the Western World. Church numbers are down in America (where the majority of Catholic power is coming to rest in immigrant populations), and sharply down in Europe, the traditional bastion of Catholic power. Their growth areas are almost all in the Third World, except for their growth in Japan, China, and Korea. All these Third World areas are socially conservative (sometimes radically so), and deeply amenable to maintaining and upholding most of the Church's traditional dogmas and tenets in terms both of leadership and of social philosophies, with the possible exception of priestly celibacy.

    But if the Church were interested in reinvigorating its European/North American power base, it's pretty clear that what would make the difference is a series of progressive policy shifts: not just dropping priestly celibacy requirements, but also ordaining women, permitting birth control, and committing itself very publicly and strongly to increased transparency and to making serious amends for the recent series of abuse scandals.

    So the questions are: where will the Church go? What direction will the Cardinals take the Vatican, and how will their decisions play out among Catholics worldwide?

    If the Church swings more progressive, they will undoubtedly pick up numbers in Europe and North America, but lose some of their momentum in the Third World, and possibly in Asia. If that happens, where will those people end up? Evangelical Protestantism and the Mormon Church are both making inroads in South America. Evangelical Protestantism and Islam are both making inroads in Africa. Will any of those find benefit there, and what could that mean for the stage of world religions and cultures?

    If the Church swings conservatively, they may be condemning themselves to a slow death of irrelevancy in Europe and America. Since the majority of the Church's funding comes from these areas, how might that affect the functioning of the Church in the future? And what might it come to mean for Catholicism to change from a caucasian-dominated religion spread to people of color to a religion of people of color sometimes taken on by caucasians?

    Europe, once dominated by the discourse of Christianity, is rapidly becoming a very secular, increasingly atheist area. If the Church swings progressive, might that change things? And what might a more progressive Church mean for the general discourse of religions in the world? If the Church swings more conservative, what will a truly secular, perhaps even atheist-dominated Europe be like? There is already a considerable problem in Europe with xenophobia and intolerance garbed in the clothes of secular universalism or secular humanism: what will the Church's choices do to these trends?

  2. mixedmedia

    mixedmedia ...

    I have no basis with which to make an informed opinion on this, but the Catholic Church is an edifice. And my impression is that edifices, in general, don't dance about. They tend to be pretty steadfast and stay right smack dab where they're standing.
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  3. Plan9 FORMAT C:

    This Island Earth
    Yeah, it's pretty funny when the Grand Muppet of God goes all Kanye West:


    From the perspective as a guy who doesn't believe in mythical outer space superheroes, I've observed the Pope / HRCC basically water themselves down and yet continue the pageantry as if their particular Howdy Doody reruns somehow still impress today's first world kids. It's an interesting dilemma: If they try to stay up to date with contemporary social issues, they look like they're a wishy-washy salvation retailer; if they stay true to tradition, they look like obsolete dinosaurs that need to wake up and smell the Yucatan impact. Religion will continue to spread like wildfire in parts of the world where god hasn't yet been replaced with money and church hasn't yet been replaced with Facebook.

    /Captain Obvious
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2013
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  4. rogue49

    rogue49 Tech Kung Fu Artist Staff Member

    The Catholic Church has as much intrigue as any other nation, and perhaps more over the years...as they've been involved globally for millennia.

    The recent controversies of playing of the shell game of pedophiles in their ranks
    and then the embezzlement at the Church's bank and more...this has likely made him step down.

    The whole system is used to supporting pontiffs that are ill and vulnerable...almost all stay in until they pass.
    There is likely a deeper reason that he chose this route...and before this he was not know as shy & retiring.

    Yes, there is a chance for Rome to change, but I don't know if they will likely do it.
    Look how long it took them from using Latin.

    We can only hope they set better policy, but men in power are used to being in power and not changing their minds.

    I have a feeling that it will get worse, before it gets better.
    We'll see who the next pope is, then you'll know.
  5. snowy

    snowy so kawaii Staff Member

    According to a piece I heard on public radio yesterday, choosing a pontiff from the Southern Hemisphere is an unlikely prospect. A local public radio show interviewed a monk and a bishop, and they both thought that while that would be an interesting direction for the Church to go in, it seemed the less likely of the options. They seemed to favor the prospect of another European pope. I agree with you, Levite , that the Church is facing tough times in Europe (and the United States, to some degree) if it doesn't modernize. Perhaps, in some sense, it has grown too monolithic to meet the needs of its diversifying populations.

    One of the things I find fascinating in the modern Church is playing out in my local parish. We're a fairly liberal college town, and much of the membership of the Catholic Church here reflects that. However, we also have an immigrant population from highly Catholic countries south of the border. The two don't mix much because their ideals within the Church are very, very different. This was reflected to me many years ago when I went to the Sunday night Newman mass with some friends, and had to be subjected to a tirade by the Hispanic priest on the evils of contraception instead of the usual pleasant homily about balancing school and life issues (one of my professors, a deacon, frequently gave the Newman homily, and did a fantastic job of it, in my opinion). The atmosphere shifted decidedly over the course of the priest's speech, and it was clear that many people were uncomfortable with what he had said. I talked with my aunt and uncle about it later, and they said that the priest in question usually led the Spanish language mass, and when he did lead regular Sunday morning mass, it often made other people uncomfortable because his values reflected the more conservative Church, which they didn't feel they were a part of.

    And in an illustration of the hypocrisy of the Church at its many levels, this same priest just got busted this summer for sex abuse: Woodburn priest held without bail in alleged sex abuse | OregonLive.com
  6. Baraka_Guru

    Baraka_Guru Möderätor Staff Member

    Ratzinger is like a CEO stepping down from a brontosaurian company, causing a management crisis in a business that can't really change its service offering. Instead, it needs to change its clients.

    The problem is that "the market" is changing. Ethics, morality, and living the good life is no longer monopolized by religious institutions. You even get people like HH the Dalai Lama claiming that the world must move beyond religion in matters of ethics.

    What this is, really, is a series of shifts towards a global secular society. These shifts are caused in part by understanding reality via the sciences and even personal experience untainted by dogma. 9er says we're replacing God with money. I think it's more accurate to say that we're replacing God with knowledge.

    The great shift to secularism began with the modernist movement. It arises out of the perceived failures of institutionalized religion.

    The Catholic Church has failed to keep up with the times. It must change or it will become irrelevant.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2013
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  7. ASU2003

    ASU2003 Very Tilted

    Where ever I roam
    The Catholic Church does need to modernize a little bit and use their organizational powers for good. The morals can be the same, but they need to adapt how they come across. And they need to build a sense of community in neighborhoods again.

    I think they also need to push for a 4 day work week too. With TV and the Internet, people are too busy now to take two hours out of their weekend to sit in church. Some people might like that, but others might want a more spirited debate, or a safe forum to talk about the problems they face in their lives and get advice from the congregation, others would like a more hands on approach to helping the sick, feeding the poor, rebuilding homes. Then there is the whole marriage issue, where they should be focused on improving and maintaining current marriages through education, conflict resolution, self improvement, and therapy.

    They also have to get out of politics. That is the tough one.
  8. Charlatan

    Charlatan sous les pavés, la plage

    Evangelical Protestantism is making very strong inroads into Asia. I get the feeling that many choose this brand of Christianity because it is already more socially conservative than the Catholics while dispensing with the trappings (i.e. conservative and modern, all the Christ without the Catholic guilt and hangups).

    I know that Evangelical Protestantism is also quite popular with Asian communities in North America as well.
  9. greywolf

    greywolf Slightly Tilted

    Without the guilt?? Christianity in all its forms is predicated on controlling through guilt for having desires, and the evangelical protestants I grew up with were very big on hellfire and damnation punishment for our guilt of being human. At least the Catholic church let you shed your accumulated guilt like a snake's skin through confession/absolution ;)
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  10. Plan9 FORMAT C:

    This Island Earth
    While I'd be all for a gay black Pope, something tells me that you can only go so far before the whole thing crumbles in on itself.
  11. Alistair Eurotrash

    Reading, UK
    Especially if she was a Muslim, I guess. It would give a lot of people hope.

    Which is why it won't happen.

    May have a black man, though. Not sure whether that would be a first (some uncertainty about Victor I).
  12. cynthetiq

    cynthetiq Administrator Staff Member Donor

    New York City