Monday, April 15, 2013

Picking the Pope

Well-informed writing about religious matters is rare enough that, when you stumble across an example, the angels start to sing.  Or Maybe Mother A. is rocking out while she does her Pilates; whatever.

In any case, the Wall Street Journal has an excellent article called Fifteen Days in Rome:  How the Pope Was Picked, by Stacy Meichtry and Allessandra Galloni, that is worth reading.  Its general subject has, of course, received immense attention; the article does a nifty job of pulling together the facts and turning them into an atmospheric narrative.

Meichtry and Galloni sketch out some of the factions, or perhaps we should call them "schools of thought," among the cardinals, and make a surprisingly strong case for the power of the English-speakers.  But most impressive is that they tell the story without falling back on the easy and inaccurate language of "liberals" and "conservatives," words that -- as we never tire of saying -- mean almost nothing in this context.

The description of Bergoglio's speech to the General Congregation, and especially the reflection by Peru's Cipriani Cardinal Thorne, is very revealing. Bergoglio appears to have turned the conversation in an important direction -- toward what in Italian s called the periferia, meaning the edge either of a city or of a society, or what we might call the margins and the marginalized.  But he did this in a way that gave no ground to the liberation theology of the 70s.  The importance of this cannot be understated.  It is easy to imagine Roman Catholicism as though it were divided between reactionary fat cats and rag tag revolutionaries, and that the former have in recent years all but suppressed the latter.  This is wildly inaccurate, and the effect of Bergoglio's speech is proof of that.  The people at the very center of the church's power structure heard an authentic call to concern for the margins, and responded at once.  Because, whatever their personal flaws and failures, they know that they are the living symbols of a powerful tradition.  Or, simply, the sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd.

Apparently, this an excerpt from a book.  We will probably buy it, once we have money.  You might not want to wait.

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