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Mayfield: Benedict’s baffling logic

Rich Mayfield
Vail CO, Colorado

I had hoped the Pope and I might have met earlier this week while both of us were visiting Washington D.C. but as luck would have it our schedules just didn’t mesh.

Had I the opportunity to present a question to His Eminence as the 70 journalists traveling with him had (although all of their questions had to be written down days before and only four were deemed worthy to be answered by Benedict), I would have inquired as to the well-being of Cardinal Bernard Law, the ex-priest-in-charge of the Diocese of Boston who skipped out of town before the law could catch up to him.

Seems he managed to get a cushy job right there in Rome where diplomatic immunity prevents his ever being held responsible for the high-crimes perpetrated by too many pedophilic Boston priests. It was Benedict’s papal predecessor who offered the pleasant little post complete with a fresco-filled palatial home and a reputed $12,000 per-month salary. It is no wonder Benedict’s apology on the first day of his visit was deemed way too little and much too late for many who were the victims of Law’s unlawfulness.

One cannot help but wonder what was going on in the Vatican when they opened their back door to this ecclesiastical do-badder and actually rewarded his malfeasance. Of course, similar confusions arise among some of us non-Catholic Christians when we read of other strange decisions emanating from the offices next to St. Peter’s basilica. For instance, there was that curious little papal dispensation last July that allows for this irritating inclusion in the Latin mass for Good Friday: “For the conversion of the Jews. Let us pray also for the Jews that the Lord our God may take the veil from their hearts and that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God, You do not refuse Your mercy even to the Jews; hear the prayers which we offer for the blindness of that people so that they may acknowledge the light of Your truth, which is Christ, and be delivered from their darkness.” As one can imagine, this particular heavenly entreaty didn’t do much for Jewish-Christian relations.

A similar setback came when this pope happened to muse aloud during a university lecture regarding perceived violent tendencies in Islam. The uproar around that faux pas still hasn’t entirely settled down.

Frankly, I’ve been more than a little surprised that there have been so few calamities since Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI. In his earlier days, Cardinal Ratzinger was well-known as the Vatican’s hit-man, searching out heresies among his own flock and building walls to keep us other flocks out. When I was in seminary at an ecumenical institution that included Roman Catholic and Protestant students, we would often console one another when we got discouraged at the slow pace of Christian unity with this blessed thought: “At least Ratzinger isn’t pope.”

As the retired pastor of a humble mountain church of semi-humble Lutherans, I certainly have little business telling the leader of 1.1 billion Catholics how to do his job but I can’t help but point out that the average age of priests in America is somewhere around 97 and so it might make some sense to begin considering allowing members of the world’s gender majority to become part of the priesthood. It is simply amazing to me that one element of the rationale for an all-male clergy is that Jesus was a man.

Take that a few more logical steps and the only fellows who could be priests would be Palestinian Jews who know how to handle a hammer and saw.

I do appreciate this pope’s consistency. When he declares he is “pro-life” he isn’t just talking about his views on abortion and although I may not agree with him on that matter I certainly acknowledge that you can’t logically be pro-life and pro-capital punishment or pro-life and pro-unjust war. I know that will come as a shock to our less than logical president but maybe the pope explained all that at their meeting on Wednesday where he also must have explained why he wasn’t coming to the White House dinner in his honor, which, come to think of it, is neither logical nor even very courteous.

Oh well, one of the benefits of being pope is you can pretty much do as you please even if what you do doesn’t much please me.

Rich Mayfield is the author of “Reconstructing Christianity: Notes from the New Reformation.” E-mail comments about this column to editor@vaildaily.com.


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