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