his blog post yesterday, "Who cares if the Pope retires?" to which the answer seems to be: "Almost everybody"--at least if the sheer volume of news coverage of the event is any indication of interest.
I was actually taken aback by the amount of media coverage of yesterday's announcement that the Pope was stepping down from his position as the head of the Catholic Church. I thought fewer people cared than actually did.
The more relevant question is, "Why do so many people care?" The media is buzzing with interest in why Benedict XVI chose to abdicate as well as with speculation on who will replace him.
Some of the things you hear, mostly from liberals outside the Church, is the wish that there will be a more "modern" Pope. You know, someone more up-to-date. Someone who understands modern sensibilities. Someone who won't talk so much about issues like contraception and abortion and same-sex marriage--issues about which even many Catholics differ.
I mean, couldn't they at least put a spoiler on the popemobile?
And not only that, but what about appointing someone to the position from a developing country? What about a Black pope? What about a Latino Pope?
The funny thing about these two pieces of advice on what kind of pope should be selected--often coming from the same person--is how completely inconsistent they are. If you want a more up-to-date pope, one who will take more liberal positions on issues like contraception and abortion and same-sex marriage, the last place you want to look is the Third World.
Liberals have this dreamy idea that the average person living in a rural village in Southeast Swazililand is some kind of liberal progressive. Just look at what passes for "multiculturalism" over at your local college. As Dinesh D'Souza pointed out a few years ago, when the liberal ideologues running our universities want to teach about what people in, say, Guatemala think, they assign their students to read I, Rigoberto Menchu, as if Marxism were somehow indigenous to Latin America. If multiculturalists ever realized what most of the native literature of the countries they're always talking about actually espoused (racism, sexism, and "homophobia"), they would be scandalized.
These are people who really think that a primitive tribesman fresh out of the jungle is a perfect candidate for a subscription to The New York Times Book Review.
If I were one of the progressive liberals now giving the Church bad advice, I would absolutely, positively NOT want a pope from a developing country. I would want anything but a pope from a developing country. No. What I want is a lily-White European male.
Oh. Wait a minute. That's what we have now. Never mind.
Furthermore, the idea that we need a more modern pope--Pope 2.0--is about the stupidest idea I've heard yet this year (although I realize that, given the creativity of liberals, I am fairly certain it will be superceded).
There is an interesting sense in which the Catholic Church becomes more, not less relevant by striving intentionally not to be. While everyone else is expending vast amounts of cultural energy trying to keep up with the times, an institution that strives instead to be 2,000 years behind the times tends to stand out from the crowd.
One of the things about constantly modernizing yourself today is that you will most assuredly be antiquated tomorrow. In a conversation with an old friend a few years back (the one who introduced me to my wife), I mentioned that my wife still wears dresses that are 20 years old. She (the old friend) said, "That's because she wears classic clothes." If she bought the things that were trendy today, she'd have to throw them out tomorrow.
The scientific materialism that is so fashionable today among the scientifically up-to-date (and philosophically naive) is one of the flies of the historical summer: It is here today and it will be gone tomorrow. And after it's gone, the Catholic Church will still be around--dealing with some other historically transient intellectual fad. And because of its historic sensibility, the Church will have the advantage of having fought some similar idea before--in all likelihood, several times.
That's the thing about intellectual and cultural fads: they're usually just a rehash of some previous idea that was in vogue 200 years ago--and 200 years before that--and 200 years before that.
In fact, historic Christianity is constantly having to open some creaky old door, climb a ladder, and blow the dust off of some faded and ancient volume in order to find the proper refutation of the latest idea--an idea usually voiced by someone who has no clue that it has already been refuted about fifteen times.
Think of the most anachronistic thing you can and remember that, at some point in the past, it was all the rage. The eternal things are the only things that never get old.
If there were a history written of all the attempts to be culturally relevant, it would actually end up being a chronicle of perpetual obsolescence. But when you are an institution that is almost completely impervious to the intellectual trends of the time, you tend not to have to worry about about constantly falling out of fashion.