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Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

PJP II -- Not All A's & B's?

Correspondent Izmud weighs in with a comment on these posts concerning the late Pope:

Pope John Paul II may have been notable and respected for many of his achievements in his lifetime, most particularly in the international relations realm. However, IMO he also bungled the handling of the priest sex scandal cases, and his hard-line stance on modern social issues has led to a Church-admitted net loss of the faithful averaging 10-15,000 per month worldwide! While conservatives may agree with his stance on these issues, or admire his doggedness in refusing to bend to modern convention and liberalism, the bottom line is that his effectiveness as a leader of a group of people comes into question if his numbers are dropping rather than rising. So, a mixed report card overall for the late Pope.
So ... let me make sure I understand your point, Izmud: his effectiveness as a leader is measured by how popular he was ... how his poll numbers ran, as it were ... and how well liked his ideas seemed to be to a largely modern audience, at least in the developed world.

By this reckoning, Bill Clinton was among the greatest leaders of modern times (Chefjef: this is meant ironically, even though you may agree with it...). Martin Luther King was just a drop in the bucket, at least during his lifetime--segregation was still very popular in the South in 1968, after all. Abe Lincoln? That monkey-faced tool of Northern trusts? Forget it! Forgive me for playing the "H" card, but Ole Uncle Adolph was very popular with the teeming German masses, at least until German cities started disappearing from the map. Hitler's nemesis Churchill was defeated in popular election immediately after he'd played the biggest role of any single living person in defeating Fascism. Hirohito was still worshiped by the Japanese, even as they were being vaporised or turned into smoking meat hunks in mute testimony against the disastrous policies he let his nation be led into. Und so weiter...

The point being: to whom is a great leader accountable? If vox populi, vox dei, as you imply, then your grading is warranted. If, however, a great leader (vice a common one, like Bill Clinton) is accountable to a higher authority (like, say, God) then he must sometimes put opinion polls aside and lead where higher authority dictates, "with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right" (to quote one long-shanked fool who was never elected to office by even a simple majority of voters).

I have it on fairly good authority that PJP II thought himself accountable to God, not man. He led where he himself was led to go, "as God gave him to see the right," understanding that not all would follow. I'm sure the latter made him sad, but I'm equally sure that he understood that was a price leaders sometimes have to pay. The shepherd is paid to know what's best for his flock; he's not paid to care what his flock thinks about him.

Incidentally, I'm not so sure that the "loss of 10-15,000 per month worldwide" is accurate. I can't seem to google reliable sources on short notice (readers please help if you have sources, regardless of which "side" they support), but the sense of what I read is that Catholicism seems to be growing throughout the "Third World," Latin America (of course) and Africa in particular, but it also seems to be giving a revived islam a run for its money in the Philippines. There is at least anecdotal evidence to support widespread growth. I imagine that the "10-15,000" number is probably accurate for Europe alone (where all religion is sucumbing to decadent ennui), but even the US Catholic population seems to have grown by about 4 million between 1990 and 2001, due mostly to immigration (legal and otherwise) from Latin America.

Catholicism is growing a lot faster than my own Methodism (which lost 25K in the same period--but the remainder are really committed Methodists/Brethren!). And I think this Lutheran is right about the reason why:
The reason for [PJP II's] success is not simply his brilliance, which was extraordinary, nor his genius at using the media to get out his message, which was astonishing, but most of all, his ability to lead by stating clearly and unwaveringly what it means to be Catholic today. Despite calls for him to adjust his message to the contemporary world, he stood firm. In contrast, we see the mainline Protestant churches in America tripping over themselves to be relevant and modern. The evidence is in: it hasn’t worked.
I think it's also interesting that many of the younger Catholics I know of are more ardent than their parents, than the Catholics I know of my own generation. Today's young Catholics don't seem to regard their faith as a just a cultural legacy inherited from their parents, as most Boomer Catholics that I know seem to. It is personal--a commitment--as it should be. I find this also in my own denomination. That's why Methodism's static numbers don't bother me: I know the Holy Spirit is present in my church, and that people are being fed there and led to lives on God's path. If "numbers happen" too, that's great, but it's not the most important thing. (BTW, numbers are "happening," bigtime.)

I must also say, finally, that I agree with Izmud on several issues. The sex scandal is one of the worst things any Christian denomination has been involved in through the entire history of the Visible Church (we just give it short shrift today because the modern world has inured us to its "not that there's anything wrong with that" decadence). Perhaps it's better that this did happen today--if it had happened even a century ago, it probably would have ripped the Catholic church completely apart. The jadedness of modern US Catholics is probably helping them get past this, ironically enough. Still, Paul would have torn what little hair he had out over such a thing. I imagine there are quite a few big millstones being fitted out on the loading dock of God's House right now...

PJP II bears considersable personal responsibility for the scandal--for allowing it to fester without taking appropriate action and for compassing its attempted cover-up. This is not just because much of this happened on his watch, but because of his own policy of "centralized control and centralized execution"--the aggregating of church power and responsibility in Rome. He did this for good reasons. Ironically, the main one was to gain control over an episcopate run doctrinally rampant--to stamp out things like "liberation theology," for instance. It's ironic because the sex scandal reflects a failure to gain control of the US council of bishops. Their ultimately anti-Christian Leftism ran (and still runs) hand-in-hand with their buggery, their pederasty, their predation of innocents, and a host of other corruptions. I do not want to be around when these animals meet Christ face-to-face. PJP should have scoured the US bishopric as thoroughly as Christ cleaned the Temple of the money changers. I only pray that Catholics get a true conservative now--one who has the courage to do what PJP failed to do.

I must also say that, as a Protestant coming from Reformed tradition, I find much Catholic doctrine absurd and some of it idolatrous (to put it as kindly as I can). Still, if one is to be a Catholic, be a Catholic, not some warmed-over EuroWeenie-like excuse for one. God wants your soul, which is at least as much heart as head--I don't think He's much of a stickler for doctrine, since we all see "through a glass darkly;" He knows who truly loves Him and who does not and I suspect these lists ultimately have little to do with the denominations of their members.


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