Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Politics of Reality

There seemed to be a great energy in the meeting of Barack Hussein Obama and Benedict XVI in the Vatican yesterday. The “superstar” handle that John McCain’s campaign so cynically labeled him is true to some degree both home and abroad. You heard about him. Now you get a chance to see him in person.

There is a certain magic when virtual images on the TV come into reality focus and in person. Of course the real of “reality” is sometimes totally different from what you expected to see as compared with the “virtual”. How tall is he? His face and body are three dimensional. There is a handshake and there is a real person on the other end of your hand.

This is not meant to be a PR handout for the White House. It is meant to illustrate that what you see is sometimes not what you get. I read an interesting article from Time magazine again this morning that I read last night. Some of the parts that I skimmed over last night stuck out in a more pronounced way in the light of day.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s article accenting the Presidential visit with the Pope, was a thought or a frame of reference that I have not seen before from her angle on the RC church and its forty year campaign in America to uphold authoritarian rule and its mixing politics with religion. Ms. Townsend states that Barack Obama is more in line with the thoughts of the average American Catholic than the Pope is.

Without a Doubt
In truth, though, Obama's pragmatic approach to divisive policy (his notion that we should acknowledge the good faith underlying opposing viewpoints) and his social-justice agenda reflect the views of American Catholic laity much more closely than those vocal bishops and pro-life activists…
Upon rereading I decided that parts I skimmed over were possibly more important than I originally had thought. In particular:
But there they part ways. Politics requires the ability to listen to different points of view, to step into others' shoes. Obama might call it empathy. While the pope preaches love, listening to the other has been a particular stumbling block for the Catholic hierarchy (as it is for many in power). The hierarchy ignores women's equality and gays' cry for justice because to heed them would require that it admit error and acknowledge that the self-satisfied edifice constructed around sex and gender has been grievously wrong. Before he became John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla had a telling all-or-nothing formulation:

"If it should be decided that contraception is not an evil in itself then we should have to concede frankly that the Holy Spirit is on the side of the Protestant Churches."
Archbishop Wojtvla’s remark if quoted correctly says two disturbing things to me:

The idea that “we” are right and the Protestants are wrong. Acting on an informed conscience in general is against the authority of the hierarchy of the Church.

Two, that compromise, that SOME contraception is evil and that separating the pill, condoms etc. from the many tentacled abortion issue was unthinkable and undoable – that compromise was not possible in the black and white mind of the Polish Archbishop.
That attitude has resulted in some heinous decisions. Most famously, in the lead up to the encyclical "Humane Vitae" in 1968, an advisory body of theologians and laity empaneled by the pope advised that the church should reverse its position on birth control and concede that the issue should be a question for morality and for science. But authority—not truth, not love—prevailed: Pope Paul VI, listening to the advice of Wojtyla, disagreed with the majority of these advisers, who had voted 69 to 10 for change, fretting that to change this position would weaken his authority.
One of the ten, Wojtvla, had pushed his ideas over the majority view and onto the pope with a mail order priest’s diploma to decide the next forty years of debate on issues that I believe Ms. Townsend has stated elsewhere on things not mentioned in the bible.

One thing I want to note upon hearing of this quote for the first time – from its sinking in. When looking at the future John Paul II as advisor to Paul VI, I feel I must say that his statement above about the Holy Spirit is a disappointment. That the Polish Archbishop’s siege mentality probably contributed to the thing that “Humanae Vitae” has in common with other religions in time of seize and fear and in the mind of the Archbishop from behind the then “Iron Curtain”.

Unrestricted conception as described and protected by the ideologues of the RC church to this day reminds me of the polygamy sanctioned in Islam and Mormonism in times of siege and fear of war in the past. Both Islam and Mormons are stuck with the embarrassment of the wrong decision being made in the past.

Historically speaking, “Humanae Vitae” is a similar embarrassment to Roman Catholics. The need to produce more sons and future armies as in John Paul II’s case was no doubt to accommodate his private and nationalist dreams of future war on the Polish Communist state.

John Paul II was almost right. The Holy Spirit does favor individual informed conscience in the Secular but not necessarily Protestant state.