Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

Pope Thoughts

emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Fr...

emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Français : emblème pontifical Italiano: emblema del Papato Português: Emblema papal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I am not a Catholic, for me, the Pope is personally neither here nor there. Except he is there, and he’s in Rome and he’s a new one.

I don’t mean to say anything controversial – but I may well unwittingly put my theological foot in it – so I apologise in advance if I do.

Here are my thoughts on everything papal:

As far as I understand it, the first pope was Peter – and he was given the church to look after when Jesus said to him three times “Feed my lambs/sheep” in an echo of the three-times denial before the crucifixion. The role of Pope was then passed down from man to man until we arrive at Francis 1.

The “good thing” about having a pope I suppose is that historical continuity. The “bad thing” about having a pope is the structure of authority that this creates. I don’t know when papal infallibility first came about as a concept – but it sounds fundamentally flawed – and several …odd… ideas have come about that don’t have much basis in Scripture – as far as I can see.

I don’t know much about the history of the Papacy but from the little I did learn, it seems rather … more colourful … than one would hope, for a Pope.

The other problem is the whole wealth thing in the Roman Catholic Church as an establishment. As (almost) every Scottish school pupil has to suffer Norman MacCaig’s poem “Assisi” when this clash of such a wealthy establishment staring poverty in the face and how that doesn’t ring all that ethical.

When I was wee, the Pope was John Paul II and I remember he came to Glasgow and everyone sang “Our God Reigns” a lot. That seemed a happy time for everyone. I also remember writing a page about him in my Primary 7 school project on Holland, as he was having a hard time there, I think.

Benedict – now I am not aware of everything he did except resign – and I have to say: good move. Break the mould after 600 years and do what you think is right. It reminded me of a wee half-nugget of memory about maybe Pope Boniface? Not sure. One pope, anyway was in his room, like hundreds of years ago, and someone channeled some kind of speaker mechanism in there and said in a God-like voice “Resign the papacy!” on repeat – something like the opposite of Samuel and Eli and all that.

Now, the new chap – I have only seen photos of him on the facebook with irreverent captions and haven’t happened to have caught the news, so know nothing about him, except he’s from South America. I don’t envy him the job – but then, I hardly qualify.

As I say, I don’t have a Pope.

It’s the scriptures, in all their complexity that I have to contend with as Spiritual authority. In there, Christ is “head of the church” – and there are various structures mentioned that various denominations are modeled on, with various roles of authority – elders, deacons etc.

In my tradition and experience, in order to figure out the will of God – it is not that someone can decide it or decree it or impose it or whatever.

Personally I go to:

Romans 12 vs 1 and 2

…in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

These verses take a lifetime of figuring out. Well, I suspect it will be a lifetime.

Interestingly this comes from the letter to the Romans, who I assume turned out to be the progenitors of the Roman Catholic Church.

So, the new pope is inheriting a great tradition and a huge responsibility. So much hope and expectation on him. But he is human. And so are all these priests that keep on falling short of their own standards.

But they are going to. They are human; they are going to fall short – like we all do.

I hope that people will not idolize human leaders; they will be let down.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4 14-16


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7 thoughts on “Pope Thoughts

  1. Well written, well said and well done. Being a lapsed Catholic myself, I find the whole hierarchical authority culminating in one Pope troubling especially in light of what power does to men. I think that Jesus somehow didn’t imagine church and religion to quite be this way.

  2. Hello, Sans — brave soul!!
    I cannot help but agree, here. I very much know what you mean.
    Being from a Lutheran background (lots of Gremanic heritage) I have to say, one of my favorites is the verse about Peter having a mother-in-law.
    Another is the requirements given for those in authority, that they be the husband of one wife and able to manage a family before they can be given more responsibilities.
    How we can ignore the Scriptures when it suits our own purposes, me included, I am sure! 😐

  3. theotheri on said:

    Yes, you are right, the first pope was Peter. But he wasn’t the pope as we understand the institution now. He was the first bishop of Rome, where he was martyred. For centuries, the bishop of Rome was chosen from among leaders in Rome – other bishops were not allowed to move from their own diocese.

    Then in the 4th century, the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. Actually, it was almost certainly a political, not a religious conversion. Rome was in trouble, the Roman gods of almost 700 years were failing, and the Christian god looked more effective. Besides, this god promised not only earthly success but life after death as well. It was a much better god. Even the selection of rewards and punishments were more powerful than what the earlier gods offered. Heaven and hell had no equal to any temporal gain.

    At the same time, the Christian leaders – the bishops and priests – were co-opted to support the Roman Empire. That is when they moved into palaces, donned robes, began to carry scepters, to use incense – all the paraphenalia of Roman secular power. That is the point, also, when priests began to be appointed from above, rather than arising from the community – a practice to which the Protestants returned more than a millenium later.

    The Protestants also returned to the scriptures as their source of inspiration, unmediated by church authority, a practice which at its root the Roman Catholic church still finds threatening. For centuries, it was only the monks and RC hierarchy in Europe who could read, a fact that gave them an unquestioned authority to teach and to preach to the illiterate layman. The RC doctrine of infallibility, which the pope officially declared in the 19th century, was a way of codifying this authority even when people were educated to as great or greater a level than the religious authorities. The doctrine of infallibility proclaims that the pope is uniquely guided by God and cannot be mistaken when he proclaims a dogma to be infallible. That is why the RC teaches today that we each must follow our individual consciences – but that if you don’t agree with the RC church, your conscience is mal-formed.

    Priestly celibacy, by the way, was not introduced into Roman Catholicism until the 12th century. It was a way of preserving church land within church ownership in the face of inheritance laws which saw increasing wealth leaving the church and going into the hands of the sons of the married clergy.

    I don’t know, Santorm, but I suspect that we agree on rather a lot that might not be initially apparent, given our quite different backgrounds.

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