Mulling Over What the Pope Might be Thinking

Was chatting with a friend last night, trying to fathom why it is the Pope leaves and apparently even compels bishops like Law to remain in their post despite the fact that they have done such a bad job. I’m beginning to wonder if it doesn’t have something to do with JPII’s theology of the cross and his very Carmelite spirituality. This is all, of course, pure speculation and I could be dead wrong. But I believe Weigel is right when he quotes the Pope to the effect that most biographers try to understand him from the outside and JPII is emphatically somebody you can only understand from the inside. And the inside of JPII is Carmelite. Dark Night of the Soul. Ascent of Mt. Carmel. Theology of the Cross.

Work with me here. What would be easier than the American approach to the Situation? Problem: Administrative bureaucracy broken. Solution: Fire administrator. Hire new guy to fix it. Problem solved. Law (and if I had my druthers, Mahony, McCormack, the bishop of Phoenix, probably Egan, and several others) go to some Office of Minutiae in Rome (assuming they escape jail time) and are set in charge of deciding what the type face and font size of Glory and Praise hymnals will be–for the rest of their lives. New guys fix everything.

This is manifestly not JPII’s approach. Now we know he’s not dumb. We also know he’s not cynical or heartless. So wassup? Could it be that in forcing these guys to endure the agony they have created for so many other people he is simply holding to the Way of the Cross and demanding these irresponsible shepherds (finally) take that way themselves after subjecting so many innocent people to it? I think it’s an idea that merits consideration. “You guys sawed down the trees, made the beams and forged the nails. Now carry the cross you so irresponsibly put on the shoulders of children–CHILDREN!” Especially since its obvious that the cross is indeed what these guys are now enduring. Life can’t be fun for any of these bad bishops. And it’s not going to get better anytime soon. But the cross is the only way to salvation–and they are offered it as much as anybody else.

I seriously wonder if that isn’t what is guiding JPII’s thinking here. Maybe my Mr. Fixit mentality is too shallow, like Peter’s when Jesus present him with the scandal of the cross:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.” Matthew 16:21-23


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