Sunday, February 19, 2006

The World Turned Upside Down

I don't know if this is a sign that the end times are around the corner or something -- get out the air conditioners -- or what, so bear with me.

Ten months into his pontificate, the simple truth is that Benedict XVI is respected more by Mormons and Pagans than he is by the people who were rejoicing loudest on his election day.

Let's face it: the Purge-and-Purge Crowd were gleefully cooking up mass excommunication strategies while most of the rest of the world found itself scratching their heads on 19 April. John Allen got e.mails from exultant Wojtyla Daughters predicting that NCR would be "eviscerated." But now, as you all well know, NCR's still alive and well and Papa Bear's been accused by the P&P's of selling the house (for a song) to gays, liberals and Cardinal Mahony while, in its sanity, the world is finding what Joseph Ratzinger always has been: a simply lovely human being and man of God.

Horrors, I tell you. Horrors.

In the comment section of my piece on Deus caritas est for Beliefnet, we have this from someone advertising herself as a pagan:
I thought what the Pope had to say was monumentally refreshing! I was raised Catholic and converted to Paganism in the 7th grade because I felt a lack of love and understanding in the Church. How wonderful that the Pope can reconnect people with what Catholicism is really about--Love. Now if only people will start practicing love without limits--the real love of God.
Don't worry -- we still have a group lacking in love and understanding in the church. They're called "orthodox faithful magisterial" etc. etc. because Catholicism alone isn't good enough for 'em. We try our best to keep them behaved.

And in the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, this from one of their columnists:
[L]ast Christmas, Pope Benedict XVI sent out a Christmas newsletter to his family of 1 billion members. In the letter, which ran to 24 pages, the news — in the tradition of Christmas letters — was all good. The news was "God is love."
I read it the other evening. The message teaches much about love but much more about the man, Benedict XVI.
Back when the pope was still Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, he had the reputation of a "doctrinal drill sergeant." He was a papal guard dog. "God's Rottweiler," they called him. But this encyclical displays another side. Beneath the firm, outer shell, the pope has a soft soul.

And I think there's a lesson there. Often we see someone who is rigid about rules and behavior and figure they must be brittle all the way through. But that's not always the case. Usually, I think, that firm crust on the outside simply shields the vulnerable bread within. At least such seems to be the case with Pope Benedict XVI. His encyclical seems to have something positive for everybody — Mennonites, Muslims, Methodists and Mormons.
Well, something positive for everybody except the people who got their rocks off thinking that Ratzinger was some kind of sanction machine, but oh well -- there's nothing positive there to begin with.

The LDS praise continues:
In a world of woe, he's determined to offer hope. Life beats us all up. At times, even religious leaders have to scold. But for me, nothing is more motivating than someone preaching optimism with firm conviction. I know what needs to be done. I just need someone to help me find the courage to do it.

Pope Benedict XVI, I think, is one of those people.

Now, for those too busy screaming about overlay stoles to focus on the wider world -- you know, that place where the church is actually supposed to be -- here's the significance of this calibre of laud appearing in the Deseret. The Deseret News is basically the L'Osservatore Romano of the LDS church: it's church-owned and its official outlet for news. And it just happens to be a damn good outlet, with fair and solid reportage. Not that you'll ever see that from this side of the ecumenical divide....

Speaking of Catholic-LDS Lovefests (which your "faithful orthodox blah-blah-blah" ones would seek to detonate), the First Presidency of the Mormon church last week released an absolutely gushing and lovely tribute to the departing Catholic bishop of of Salt Lake, now (Benedict-chosen) Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco -- who, after 11 years in Utah, has shown himself to be fluent in Mormon.

Feast your eyes:
From time to time, we are blessed with religious leaders whose influence transcends denominational boundaries to lift and inspire people of all faiths. Archbishop George H. Niederauer is such a leader.

His exemplary service will long be remembered not only by the Catholic faithful of the Diocese of Salt Lake City but also by many others among all religions in Utah. Government officials and leaders of community agencies will also reflect with gratitude on his labors to make life better in the cities and towns of our state.

He is a man of quick wit and good humor, unyielding integrity and immense capacity. Above all, he is our friend....

Ecclesiasticus wrote, “A faithful friend is a strong defense: and he that hath found such an one hath found a treasure.” Archbishop Niederauer has been a faithful, treasured friend in defending all that is good, those values and virtues which the Apostle Paul described as true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report.

In an environment where religion is sometimes used as an excuse to divide, he always led with a voice of respect and common decency. With wisdom and compassion, he reached out in meaningful, heartfelt ways to help us better understand one another....

His sincere concern and compassion for the disadvantaged, regardless of religious affiliation, is readily apparent in the hands-on assistance he has given personally and in the relief work he has directed through Catholic Community Services. It has been our privilege to cooperate with him on a number of these humanitarian projects.

Archbishop Niederauer, a faithful friend, will be dearly missed. We know that many will be blessed in the Archdiocese of San Francisco by his able leadership and caring service. Our prayers, love and best wishes go with him.
Wow. Full of love, and they're better at quoting Scripture than most Catholics.... Talk about raising the bar.

Parece que el proximo obispo de Salt Lake tiene un desafío delante de el.