Pope-pourri

I was going to post something earlier about the simultaneously overdone and underdone media frenzy over the death of Pope John Paul II.

I didn't get a chance to do that. I was too busy the past few days racking up overtime participating in that same media frenzy. (Yes, I'm part of the problem — but, hey, time and a half.)

Despite the fact that news agencies had been working on this story for years, most of what's been offered is a mile wide but an inch deep. The pope's death is a Big Story. Sometimes the way to cover a Big Story is with a thousand small stories — but not by repeating the same small story a thousand times.

* * * * * *

John Paul's categorical opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has been as little remarked upon at his passing as it was at the time of the march to war.

On CNN they seem, perversely, to be avoiding the topic because they don't want to say anything critical of the dead. It's as if one of the pope's most praiseworthy moral stands were a scandal to be covered up until after the funeral. Unlike CNN, John Paul was not a vellolatrous stooge who accepted that unprovoked invasion was a Good Thing because the American president said so and the American president must never be questioned in a time of war.

Max Sawicky notes that the late pope nearly always took a stand opposite that of the warbloggers:

The viewpoint least congenial to the Pope's views happens to be the faux-libertarian/jingoist mindset prominent in Blogistan (the right-wing hemisphere of the blogosphere). After all, by their standards the Pope was quite the "idiotarian." He was wrong on their favorite issue — the War on Terror. Not only did he oppose the Iraqi invasion, he also opposed the first Gulf War and the Clinton Administration's Serbian venture. Morever, this opposition was not founded on some Democratic 'realist' interpretation of the national interest, but of a more-or-less pacifist framework. Violence, bad.

I think Max overstates things when he calls this a "more-or-less pacifist framework." John Paul was a strict adherent of the just war doctrine. Even with a thousand Vatican lawyers working overtime he couldn't find a casuistic loophole that would allow the American-led invasion of Iraq to be called just.

John Paul's earlier opposition to the first Gulf War was, I think, an attempt to assert the renewed importance of just war principles in a post-Cold War world. It was an attempt to set the bar for the criterion of "last resort" high enough to be a meaningful inhibition and a check against the unchecked power of the "world's only superpower."

* * * * * * *

Our paper ran a wire story this week mentioning that "every pope has been European." This was a few pages after the chart listing the longest-serving popes in history — including St. Peter the apostle as the longest-serving of all.

Peter, of course, was a Galilean Jew, not a European.

* * * * * * * *

Peter was also married.

The first chapter of Mark's Gospel — usually considered to represent Peter's account — tells the story of Jesus' healing of Peter's mother-in-law. She was "lying sick with fever" when Jesus and his coterie showed up at the home of two of his disciples and their extended family. "And [Jesus] came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her and she waited on them." (I love that last detail. She doesn't drop to her knees with praise and thanks, but hops up and says, "Sit down, let me get you boys something from the kitchen …")

I mention that Peter was married because it's an inconvenient fact for those who believe that God has ordained a celibate, unmarried priesthood. This is, I believe, a very strange and Bad Idea.

I just fundamentally don't get the idea that priests be prohibited from marrying. Some have argued that this arose as an economic measure to prevent church property from being scattered among the heirs of the priests. That makes about as much sense as any other explanation. It's certainly not an idea that suggests itself from anything in the New or Old Testaments.

It's also a relatively recent idea — more recent, even, than the idea that priests must be equipped with a penis. Neither of these innovations has served the church well. Here's hoping some future pope has the courage to acknowledge this.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

We've got a story in today's paper titled "Market is hot for papal collectibles." That's slightly — but only slightly — more tasteful than the equally accurate alternate headline: "Cha-ching! Dead pontiff is hot, hot, hot at the cash register!"

While shopping for a communion present, Jane Mills found it impossible to resist two medals of Pope John Paul II that could be worn as pendants. …

So many people have bought the medals at Angel Crossing that store owner Michele Lennon wasn't sure how many more to order.

In a few seconds on Tuesday, her order jumped from 40 to 80 to 100. That's the way it's been at the Catholic gift and book store in Elsmere since the Holy Father died on Saturday. …

"It's been unbelievable in the store," said Lennon, who's had more customers now than at Christmas.

There is a legitimate, reverent impulse at work here, but it says something — something unseemly — about us as Americans that such impulses invariably manifest themselves in acquisitive shopping sprees. I understand the emotional need for tangible keepsakes, but a thaumaturgical faith in holy relics ordered wholesale from the Oriental Trading Co. is not a healthy thing.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

The next pope will, of course, have to choose a papal name. Some recommendations: Pope Phoebe I, or Priscilla, or Julia. These are all names of leaders in the first-century church in Rome.

They are also all women's names, so they probably won't be used, since, 1) church rules prohibit women from being pope, and 2) church rules prohibit church officials from acknowledging that many of the earliest leaders of the Roman church were women.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Update: Julia (of Sisyphus Shrugged — not the first-century Roman church leader) has a great deal more to say about the late pope and his relationship with the current American president over at The American Street. She notes that the pope, in addition to opposing unprovoked war, also disapproved of torture.

  • none

    Re: married and/or women priests.
    I grew up strict strict Catholic and went to Catholic school through Junior year of college. My parents still attend tridentine mass. I was taught in my theology classes that there are two different classes of Catholic teachings. There are dogmatic teachings (ie Mary’s virginity, Jesus’ divinity, the Real Presence in the Eucharist) and there are administrative teachings (ie Priests must be celibate). Both teachings must be respected by all who wish to call themselves Catholic, however, the administrative teachings are considered changeable in order to adapt to “the times” whereas the dogmatic teachings cannot be legitimately changed.
    The logic on the unchangeability of dogma is somewhat reminds me of the logic of papal infallibility:
    Rule 1 the pope is always right, (ex Cathedra at least)
    Rule 2 if the pope is not right, then he is not the pope.
    I’ve yet to hear what I consider a good enough reason why women cannot be priests and priests cannot be married. All i’ve heard are some logically weak arguments that sound like they were made up as justifications after the fact. ie, Priests cannot be married because they must be able to devote ALL their energy towards their parish … or because their vows of poverty and obedience would interfere too much with family life …

  • Paolo

    Some little known facts about Priestly Celibacy…
    The practice of a celibate priesthood of the Catholic church only started around the 12th Century. This was an effort to curb corruption in the Church because married bishops would tend to promote their children into positions of power as well as using their position to pass church lands from one generation to the next. The married priesthood tended to create a “priestly caste”. The practice of celibacy for the priesthood is not one necessarily of doctrine, but a time-honored practice.
    In fact, there are quite a few married Catholic priests. Many of them are converts from Anglicanism or other Protestant denominations. The Catholic Church also has many other rites. The most widely known rite is the “Roman Rite” which is run by the Roman Pontiff. But there are other rites such as the Greek Rite and Anglican Rite Catholic Churches which recognize the Pope, but maintaint their own liturgy and discipline. The Greek Rite and Anglican Rite does allow for a married man to become a priest.

  • Peatey

    The only ‘explanation’ I’ve heard is 1 Cor 14, is there a better reason for evangelicals?

  • Peatey

    Fred, I couldn’t help but notice another Left Behind error: apparently the pope wasn’t the antichrist.

  • Peatey

    erm, i mean the false prophet.

  • g

    “vellolatrous”? Not in the only two (paper) dictionaries I have (the Shorter Oxford, usually very good, and Chambers, usually very adequate), and Google’s only instance points to another of your blog entries. (A one-word googlewhack, except that Google doesn’t recognize it as a word…)
    “will-worshipping”, in some Nietzschean way? “vellum-worshipping”, referring to some sort of bibliolatry? Some variant on “bellolatrous”, which I suppose would be “war-worshipping”?
    Am I missing something obvious here?

  • g

    “vellolatrous”? Not in the only two (paper) dictionaries I have (the Shorter Oxford, usually very good, and Chambers, usually very adequate), and Google’s only instance points to another of your blog entries. (A one-word googlewhack, except that Google doesn’t recognize it as a word…)
    “will-worshipping”, in some Nietzschean way? “vellum-worshipping”, referring to some sort of bibliolatry? Some variant on “bellolatrous”, which I suppose would be “war-worshipping”?
    Am I missing something obvious here?

  • Mrs Tilton

    Paolo,
    it was a bit earlier than the 12th c., I believe; but not much earlier. I am no church historian but if I am not mistaken it was Gregory VII Hildebrand, who died in the late 11th c., that made celibacy obligatory for priests of the western rite. Mind you there had been celibate priests long before that; it’s just that there had always also been, emm, uncelibate priests as well.
    In the eastern orthodox church there are to this day married priests, though I believe they must marry before ordination, else not at all. Indeed I think I recall reading somewhere that eastern orthodox priests who are unmarried would be looked rather askance at by their congregations, unless of course they were also monks (bishops being drawn exclusively from the monastic ranks).
    As I am not Roman Catholic I suppose it’s really not my business whether catholics allow their priests to marry or not. I will say, though, that I would think it a good idea if they did; and they may find themselves without a choice in the matter anyway soon enough, for purely demographic reasons. That said, I am perfectly ready to accept that a man (or a woman for that matter) could decide to forgo marriage in order to devote themselves to their flock etc. Some might describe this as a call to celibacy. But if it is not left to the individual to decide this, it would seem to me to be a choice of little value.
    BTW, is there in fact an Anglican rite catholic church (i.e., a body that accepts papal authority, is otherwise in communion with Rome etc., but uses the Book of Common Prayer)? Though I have never heard of such a thing, I would be interested to learn of it. I have known dizzyingly high church Anglicans, including some who had formed breakaway churchlets because they deemed the CoE or the ECUSA insufficently ‘catholic’; but they had not signed on to Roman authority. Conversely, I’ve known former Anglican clergy who ‘poped’. Though in some cases they were permitted to keep their wives if already married, they became priests of the Roman rite. That is, they used the standard vernacular Roman liturgy (aesthestically much inferior, in my view, to both the BCP and the old Tridentine Latin ritual of the RC church), were not organised in a separate hierarchy and were otherwise indistinguishable from any other RC priest, bar the chance to be called ‘father’ in two different contexts. If there is an Anglican rite within the RC church, I’d find that mildly intriguing, though on the whole probably not a good thing.

  • Mrs Tilton

    g:
    flag-worshipping would be my guess, though ‘vexillolatrous’ might be the purer neologism in that case. Vellolatry could also be parsed as fleece-worshipping, the reference being perhaps to the Golden Fleece (which is, I believe, the signet of Brooks Brothers, hence not at all inapposite).
    In either event, had I invented such a word within earshot of an elderly classics teacher I used to know, he’d have scolded me soundly me for mixing Latin and Greek roots. For all that, the old pedant wasn’t above owning a television.

  • bellatrys

    Religious collectible junk is nothing new – not even the egregiously tacky! “Bring home your souvenier box of dirt from the pilgrimage, with scenes from the life of Christ on the outside – or if you can’t afford that, we have these exclusive hand-cast pendants you can take with you and fill with Jordan water or Golgotha sand, for only 3 denarii apiece! At that price, you can get one for all your friends and relatives, too”… Dibblerism is the one constant human creed.

  • Abby (who wishes she had a cool blog posting name)

    Why did JP II oppose our intervention in the Balkans? I never made up my mind on that one. I did think that banning arm sales was wrong when we were clearly preventing the aggrieved from defending themselves.

  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden

    I agreed with every word except for the paragraph sniffing over “papal collectibles”. As I read that part, I murmured “Fred’s Protestantism is showing.” Do understand that I mean this in the nicest possible way.
    Catholics are all about knick-knacks and collectibles. It’s part and parcel of the whole sacramentalism thing. The Holy Spirit doesn’t only manifest to people with discreet good taste.

  • g

    Ah, flags. I hadn’t thought of that. Thanks, Mrs T! I’m half-ashamed to say that the Latin/Greek thing was troubling me too, largely because I’m too ignorant of Greek to have thought of any half-plausible meanings using consistently Greek roots :-).
    You might find http://reader.classicalanglican.net/index.php?p=36 interesting. It suggests that there isn’t, at least for now, an officially sanctioned Anglican rite within the RCC.

  • linnen

    I guess Pope Joan II should be dismissed out of hand?

  • Fred

    Doh.
    “Vexillolatrous” — flag-worshipping — is what I was shooting for there.
    It’s a useful-these-days word I think I learned from Hal Incandenza. (Make that almost learned.)
    Reading g’s attempt to salvage my malapropism, though, makes me wish there was a word for “will-worshipping in some Nietzschean way.” Any nominees?

  • Dave Lartigue

    I think the new pope should take the name Pope Snoop Dogg I. You know, to show he’s “hip”.

  • Dave Lartigue

    I think the new pope should take the name Pope Snoop Dogg I. You know, to show he’s “hip”.

  • John

    In terms of the reason for priestly celibacy, it was fairly sensible in the Middle Ages – the dangers of nepotism, and so forth were rather high. Plus, being able to send younger sons off to be celibate priests meant that the eldest son could just inherit the land. it worked decently overall in a pre-modern society. Clearly these reasons don’t really apply anymore.
    BTW, are Eastern-rite Catholic priests (e.g. Maronite, Ukrainian Catholic, and so forth) allowed to marry?

  • g

    How about “thelemolatrous”? Greek “thelema” means “will”, and although my Greek is wretchedly weak, a brief glance through the Greek NT and at a lexicon entry for the word suggests that it doesn’t mean only the deliverances of the faculty of will, but also the faculty itself — as required.

  • Andrew Brown

    Well, it’s ten years since I was a full time God correspondent, but memory tells me that the Eastern-rite Catholic parish are allowed to marry, though only in their native countries. ie, if you’re a Ukrainian Catholic (they hate the name Uniate) priest in Lwow you may marry, but not if you are one in Detroit. This is so as not to make the other Catholic priests in Detroit jealous. Certainly, in the UK, where there are a couple of hundred married ex-Anglican Catholic priests, there was a great deal of resentment from the heterosexual clergy who still have to [poke their housekeepers on the quiet] maintain the discipline of celibacy.
    As for Mrs Tilton’s query: I don’t think there is; but if there is one, it is in the USA. I have a faint emory that about fifty priest went over in one lump and were able to keep their liturgy. But I can’t swear to it. One of the conditions for the Anglican priests who came over in the UK was that they drop their traditional liturgy. This was quite deliberate. They had wanted to keep it, but Cardinal Hume wanted to be quite sure they did not form in his church the kind of self-contained and utterly distinctive clique they had been in their old one.

  • Andrew Brown

    Well, it’s ten years since I was a full time God correspondent, but memory tells me that the Eastern-rite Catholic parish are allowed to marry, though only in their native countries. ie, if you’re a Ukrainian Catholic (they hate the name Uniate) priest in Lwow you may marry, but not if you are one in Detroit. This is so as not to make the other Catholic priests in Detroit jealous. Certainly, in the UK, where there are a couple of hundred married ex-Anglican Catholic priests, there was a great deal of resentment from the heterosexual clergy who still have to [poke their housekeepers on the quiet] maintain the discipline of celibacy.
    As for Mrs Tilton’s query: I don’t think there is; but if there is one, it is in the USA. I have a faint emory that about fifty priest went over in one lump and were able to keep their liturgy. But I can’t swear to it. One of the conditions for the Anglican priests who came over in the UK was that they drop their traditional liturgy. This was quite deliberate. They had wanted to keep it, but Cardinal Hume wanted to be quite sure they did not form in his church the kind of self-contained and utterly distinctive clique they had been in their old one.

  • Barbara

    I agree with the above about the church’s fears of creating a “dynastic” church structure in various countries, which tended to happen anyway, just not through inheritance. So a real idiot could be excluded, but on the whole, a smart person from a good family with “roots” in the church the area would most likely be elevated. This practice was most notable in parts of France and German speaking countries, and least prevalent in the British isles. Also, a side effect of the church’s policy was that the church became one of the few reasonably meritocratic institutions in the middle ages. Boys (particularly illegitimate boys) could be sent to the church and, if smart, could generally count on getting a much better education than they would have through any other means. Erasmus, I believe, was the illegitimate son of a priest.

  • Mrs Tilton

    The mediaeval church had a meritocratic element to be sure, maybe the only significant one of its day. Still, its ‘meritocracy’ strikes me as like that of the Georgian navy as described by Patrick O’Brian. Lots of unpromoted lieutenants from not very distinguished backgrounds; a fair few captains without much in the way of quarterings in their arms; and the occasional natural genius hoisting his flag.
    Even so, in the church as in the navy, the surest road to advancement was to spring from the meat-eating silk-wearing classes, and from as high up as possible. Normally these silk-wearers would be those, typically younger sons, who weren’t going to inherit. Here too the mediaeval church shows a parallel to Nelson’s Navy, which O’Brian never makes explicit but N.A.M. Rodger does. With very few exceptions, a peer sending his eldest son to sea was effectively announcing that the family fortunes were very strained indeed.
    I recently read, but alas cannot for the life of me remember where (nor even whether on-line or dead-tree) that much of the mediaeval church’s attitude towards sex can be read as having little to do with morality and lots to do with an intra-upper-class power struggle. What the church cared about very much was limiting the opportunites of the landed classes to (i) marry and (ii) have sex. The impediment of consanguinity was carried to ludicrous extremes, so that (especially in a society with a relatively small population and a lot of marital alliances among the ruling classes) it could be very hard to find an acceptable mate. And once you did, the church set down strict rules about when you could mate with her: no sex on a number of days of the week and none at all for long stretches of the year.
    In other words, the church threw up barriers to the nobility’s production of legitimate sons. (They didn’t care so much about bastards, who would not normally inherit, nor about the peasantry, for whom marriage was often a surprisingly informal affair.) The lay rulers were not without means of striking back, vide the Statute of Mortmain, to say nothing of the late but ultimate gambit in England of dissolving the monasteries and distributing church property to ‘new men’. But by then, of course, things weren’t really all that mediaeval anymore.

  • cjmr

    This has been a really enlightening discussion.
    Too bad about the jokey title, though…

  • Mnemosyne

    Don’t forget that it was very common in Catholic countries to send extra daughters off to be nuns as well to save money on their dowries. It’s one of the reasons the Reformation took hold — you had a bunch of priests, monks and nuns who weren’t called to religious life. They were there for purely practical reasons. So they’d find a lot of ways around those silly little vows of “chastity” and “celibacy.”
    Incidentally, technically a vow of celibacy is a vow not to get married, not a vow to abstain from sex. (The vow to abstain from sex is the vow of chastity.) The Church currently argues that they’re the same thing since good Catholics don’t have sex outside of marriage (ahem). But, historically, that’s the difference between the two vows.

  • none

    Here is more information on the Anglican Rite in the Catholic Church:
    http://www.cin.org/anguse.html
    Once a person receives minor orders (the first of Holy Orders) they cannot marry. This is true across the board with the Orthodox and the Catholics. There are many married Deacons in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. They are called “Permanent Deacons.” And if they are widowed, then it is permissible (depending on the bishop) to ordain them as priests.
    Also, every Catholic is called to be “chaste.” Chastity outside of marriage is abstinence. Chastity inside of marriage is fidelity to one’s spouse. Chastity is not the same as abstinence. Celibacy is a vow to not marry which implies chastity which in turn implies abstinence.

  • kristina

    I like the name ‘Perpetua’ myself — early pregnant christian martyr and an early female writer to boot!!!

  • Petey

    “Sometimes the way to cover a Big Story is with a thousand small stories — but not by repeating the same small story a thousand times.”
    So well said! I think this brilliantly encapsulates the problem with media coverage of nearly everything, not just the Pope.

  • Petey

    “Sometimes the way to cover a Big Story is with a thousand small stories — but not by repeating the same small story a thousand times.”
    So well said! I think this brilliantly encapsulates the problem with media coverage of nearly everything, not just the Pope.

  • http://www.pacificviews.org/weblog/archives/001047.html Pacific Views

    So Much To Read

    Imagine how much I could get done if I didn’t like to read so much. Hmmm. Well, anyway, back to my regularly scheduled habits. Doctors warn about the consequences of Medicare reimbursement cuts planned for next year. Illegal immigrants have…

  • http://www.pacificviews.org/weblog/archives/001047.html Pacific Views

    So Much To Read

    Imagine how much I could get done if I didn’t like to read so much. Hmmm. Well, anyway, back to my regularly scheduled habits. Doctors warn about the consequences of Medicare reimbursement cuts planned for next year. Illegal immigrants have…

  • J Mann

    Paul wrote some stuff about celibacy, right? (Corinthians?) IIRC, he basically wrote that (1) noone should surrender to the temptations of the flesh because they interfere with devotion to god, but (2) if you absolutely can’t resist, then you should get married, as marriage is preferable to unmarried fornication.
    I don’t know, but I assume that Paul’s instructions are part of the basis for the celibate clergy.
    (Oddly, a lot of people use portions of this in their wedding readings).

  • James

    A small correction: the diaconate is (currently) the first of the major orders. Individuals in the minor orders (Porter, Acolyte, Exorcist, Lector) were free to marry. (Subdeacons were considered to be in major orders and were supposed to be celibate in the Roman Church prior to the abolition of the subdiaconate after Vatican II.)
    There are arguments on both sides regarding clerical celibacy. In my (Anglican) experience I have seen a high number of marriage failures and an even larger number of very dissatisifed clergy spouses, since the vocation to the priesthood tends to absorb a very large part of a priest’s day at a very high level of priority. There is an argument that those who feel themselves to be called to the priesthood should at minimum consider very carefully whether they will have the capacity to provide adequate attention and energy to both their vocations and their spouses.

  • Maya

    My mom always told me that priests couldn’t marry because they used to have a rather…um…special way of exacting penitence from the pretty young girls in the parish, thereby creating a lot of illegitemate children for the vatican to look after. But I’ve never heard that anywhere else, so who knows where she heard that. She’s quite the storyteller herself.

  • Jack Grey

    So… not to drag this off-topic, but it’s Friday (here, at least). Where’s my LB fix?

  • JB Lawton

    I was wondering the same thing, Jack. (I can’t believe I’m jonesing for the Left Behind books!)

  • xray

    Yeah, enough pope, I want my LB!

  • Jack Grey

    Well, technically we’re jonesing for the commentary, right? I don’t think I made it more than 50 pages into the books proper; I have an allergy to bad writing, and LB was in serious danger of sending me into anaphylactic shock. Fred’s a brave man, to risk such a fate.

  • http://ilx.wh3rd.net/thread.php?showall=true&msgid=5669324#5671520 I Love Everything

    best observations on the Papal Death Media Orgy

    Slacktivist had some good bits on this one, about how CNN & the other major media outlets don’t tend to mention that this Pope never supported the Iraq War, nor the Nato airstrikes in Kosovo or the first Gulf War either. Or any policy supporting tortur…

  • Andrew Reeves

    Mrs. Tilton,
    Something to bear in mind is that one reason that the lay elites were more or less willing to go along with the Church when it came to marriage is that they needed the Church as something of an “umpire” in the dynastic games that the various magnates played, an authority which everyone (more or less) agreed was a final arbiter. Even the degrees of separation required for contracting parters was useful in that if you looked hard enough, you could probably find a level of consanguinuity sufficient to annul a marriage if it became necessary to do so. It was for that reason and many others that Lateran IV cut the number of degrees down to a reasonable four.
    Think less in terms of control and more in terms of networks and reciprocity.

  • http://www.sierte.com thename

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