Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Perfect Puppet: Brand New Pope, Same Old Papacy. Benedict Gets His Way.

 Emeritus Rules

There will be no talk of liberation theology.
There will be no talk of human rights.
There will be no talk of women as clergy.
There will be no talk of transparency. 

Change is slow in Catholicism, but with the election of Jorge Bergoglio, the papacy, is at a standstill: there will be no transparency, no change in the direction that Benedict set forth: the new pope will simply be an adjunct of the old pope and the papacy is doomed to become an anachronism in a time when it could become a force for change. It sounds hopeless because it is hopeless: only a drastic shift in direction regarding issues such as women in the clergy, gay rights, celibacy, Vatican finances, and child sexual abuse could help the papacy survive in the 21st century. 

The Smokescreen Of  Differences

The Vatican is, however, eager to point out that Francis could not be more different than Benedict: The first pope from the Americas, the first pope to be Jesuit, the first Francis. He was a scientist, not a theologian. He was the most "pastoral" of prelates, stressing evangelism rather than simply adhering to doctrine. And his no-frills lifestyle will certainly eschew the Prada shoes, striking fear in the hearts of some cardinals who are used to the trappings of Catholicism's upper eschelons. And the Vatican needs a facelift - badly. And who cares if it's only superficial? Whether or not he extends that frugality and that "pastoral goodness" to the Vatican financial empire, however, remains to be seen. 

Waiting in the wings

Since Bergoglio received the second most votes in the conclave that chose Ratzinger, it is evident that the cardinals are sticking with the same ideologies ... and to Ratzinger's lead. Conspiracy theorists might conjecture that Bergoglio has known for quite some time that he would be pope after Ratzinger. Ratzinger certainly appointed enough cardinals to cement the deal. And Ratzinger might have considered Bergoglio's age and health: better get him into the papacy now, while he can reign for the number of years required to keep the ubiquitous of cover-ups and secrecy sustained. Ratzinger's conservatism needed time to regroup and strengthen itself, and it got that time with Bergoglio. 

Piety Or Pretense?

While Bergoglio has often chided fellow prelates as being "Pharisees" - people who congratulate themselves while condemning others - his noted work in the slums and with the poor is at odds with the lack of political stance he might have taken against the dictators of Argentina. He admits to not adhering to liberation theology, an ideology that gives backbone to work with the poor and pure altruism. And while he cites Jesus' dining with outcasts and prostitutes, his views of homosexuality (especially in terms of gay adoption) led Argentinian President Christian Fernandez to compare his tone to "medieval times and The Inquisition." 

Sound like anyone we know?

The Most Positive Response - The Right Wing Has It

The Christian Right is thrilled: the status quo of the Vatican on issues of abortion, contraception and gay rights has been kept and it can breathe a sigh of relief. Mike Huckabee, Tony Perkins, Bryan Fischer and Pat Robertson can take heart that the Vatican is firmly in their corner on their issues. "Fie To The Liberal Demonspawn" is what they needed to counter the shift in attitudes, some coming from Catholics themselves. And while some sects and preachers have abused Catholicism (remember John Hagee's "whore of Babylon" sentiment?), they rejoice at having allies: numbers dwindling, they have no choice. 

And when inheriting Ratzinger's woes and scandals, Bergoglio might also look to allies from the big CR.

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