Papal Indifference and The Will of God at the Bowling Alley

I don’t care who our next pope will be. I find the fanfare understandable and laudable at times, but mostly lackluster. Even slightly annoying. I think a Patheos blogger already wrote about that.

Here and there, in conversations I’ve had lately, I’ve mentioned that globalizing the papacy makes me uneasy. I think I prefer Italian popes. But I really don’t care. I suspect that comment is just to make conversation interesting.

I’ve even found myself indifferent to the papacy in general. I mean, I like the institution for many different reasons, beginning with the fact that I love old things and find solace in the continuity they offer. But I am less and less convinced that the Church needs this pope or that pope.

In the US we’ve become so drunk on politics that we’ve inflated the office of president to a proportion that strikes me as downright idolatrous — a president is a thing to be loved and/or hated, with all your heart, all your might, and all your strength. Disgusting.

I suspect we’ve imported some of our presidential fantasies into the papacy. I am quite sure that the press has done just that, or worse.

The Church has not always had good leaders. We’ve had some terrible ones, and we have too many.

There is a dark hope in this fact, in the reality that our next pope may be a bust or too ordinary or not enough to satiate our thirst for celebrity and news-induced comas: the will of God manifests itself most vividly in the absurd, the inverted, the things that are not supposed to happen.

God appears in vertigo.

Did God will for the Shoah to happen? I sure hope not. The Old Testament shows us that God is not exactly an altruistic philanthropist, but it would be very odd for the God of Jacob to turn out to be an anti-Semite.

The point, of course, is that this sort of speculation is mostly navel gazing. Our questions about God are usually projections about ourselves. God remains untouched, mysterious, distorted in our psychoanalytic gaze.

Maybe God doesn’t care who the cardinals elect. Maybe the Holy Ghost is happy to let them decide and provide the blessing. I don’t know or care.

This apolitical theology of indifference is not apathy or neglect. I think we need to radically change the way we think about these events and this thing we call the Church within the 24-hour news cycle. By “radically change” I mean to return to a root (radis) we’ve never known, but always desire. Something far more enchanting than the daily news and its objectified victims.

I took my sons bowling last week. The eldest was losing to his younger brother and me. He began to pray. He pleaded with Jesus, begging for deliverance from the shame of losing to his younger brother. He made the sign of the cross and recited a Hail Mary, with sincerity and reverence. He lost.

I didn’t insult him with consolations or excuses. He’ll have to sort that out himself, I guess. I don’t know how prayer works — nor do I care, really. Just like the pope, whoever and whenever it will be.


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