Note: This entry has nothing to do with my normal ramblings about books, sports, movies or TV. Serious-minded political/religious ranting ahead. Scroll on past if you'd rather not.
Because another arch-conservative in a place of authority and influence is just what we needed.
Joseph Ratzinger - alias "Pope Benedict XVI" - was elected Pontiff today, and he's got liberal-minded Catholics dismayed at the rejection of anything close to a progressive agenda from the Vatican.
Here's the thing - and I'll grant that my perspective is skewed because I'm a non-practicing Catholic who has a vested interest in the Church humanizing their position on gays and lesbians (I don't anticipate returning to the fold even if their policies change, but such changes would be of tremendous help to the greater cause). But for good or ill, a lot of people look to Rome for moral guidance and then apply that morality to their practical lives. When that moral guidance is intolerant, when that moral guidance is rigid in the face of reasonable change, when that moral guidance will not even show basic respect for the women/gays/condom users who buy into their faith, then that causes problems for a whole lot of people who lie outside the Roman Catholic sphere.
And the shame of it is, liberal minded Catholics will be disappointed in this affirmation of closed-mindedness, but they will ultimately keep doing what they've been doing. They'll still go to church, donate to the collection basket, and recite "I believe in one holy Catholic and apostolic Church", and nothing will change.
It's hard for me to fathom that so many people who are so devoted to their faith would allow said faith to be guided by men who clearly don't represent them. It's hard for me to fathom that any feminist (yes, you are) would participate in a Church which views men and women as so fundamentally unequal that they will not allow a woman to minister to the faithful at the same level as a man. It's hard for me to fathom that anyone can look at a Church that is so backward as to not even budge on such reasonable reforms as condoning contraception and allowing priests to marry and think that it represents their values.
My question - in all sincerity - is: why don't they just break off? Why don't progressive clergy just break away from Rome and establish a newer, more representative church? Hell, they used to do it all the time! Try and count how many Protestant denominations there are some time. Schism was all the rage! Why not? If you think about it, for Catholics who are pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-married clergy, pro-women clergy, pro-contraception, pro-liberation theology, what else is there in Rome that is left for them? There's the Bible, Jesus Christ, and a doctrine of "love thy neighbor". Which can be found in countless denominations including one waiting to be established by progressive Catholic bishops with a little backbone and a pioneering spirit.
Look. I know the Roman Catholic Church does not have to change if it does not wish to. The Vatican is not the White House and Catholicism is not democracy. It's a top-down establishment, to be sure. They don't have to accept women priests. Or married priests. Or married gays. Or the Pill. My personal issue with the church (well, one of them) is why would I want to be a part of a club that doesn't want me as a member? I often wonder why liberal minded Catholics do.
Your belief in God, in Jesus, in the Bible, is a strong thing. I have a feeling it'll travel.