Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Despite Romans 14:13 I am going to pass judgment

And the judgment I am passing today is on all media who use the word 'surprise' or 'shock' in their descriptions of the just announced resignation of Benedict XVI as Pope. The guy is 85. There is no surprise and even less shock when an 85 year old says they are going to retire. PS I am also passing judgment on media (such as our own Stuff.co.nz ) who say this move could "plunge" the Catholic church into "turmoil." The canonical procedures are clear and well-known. There will be no turmoil, just prayer and booking of airline tickets to get the voting cardinals to Rome for the enclave. Incidentally, just as Damian Thompson points out that the Catholics of England and Wales will have no say in the election so we could point out that the Catholics of Aotearoa New Zealand will have no say either, our only Cardinal, Tom Williams being over the age of 80). I am feeling quite judgmental about this without a shadow falling across my conscience :)

With that plain and wilful disobedience on my part confessed concerning Romans 14:13, "Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another", I return to my meandering discourse on the 14th and 15th chapters of this great epistle. Only briefly today as other concerns press on me, including running the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Races at the Anglican Centre. Made the pancakes last night. If pancake making is a requirement for papal office, then I am in. First thing I will change is the Infallibility thing. Otherwise some terrible mistakes could be made, as many commenters here could predict. However I am not a shoo in for office as already Richard Dawkins is a candidate with odds of 666/1. I digress.

The second part of 14:13 continues, "but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another."

Here is Paul at his pastorally sharpest edge. All sincere Christians who honour the Lord are entitled to have their differing convictions recognised and provided for, he has been saying till this point. That is, "equal but different" could be the slogan of the Paulinist church of Romans 14:1-12. But is that how humanity operates in a community, let alone the church? No! Among us some of us are 'strong' and some are 'weak'. Theoretically we should relate in an egalitarian church; practically some are stronger than others, some are weaker than others. So Paul says we need to make allowances for 'the other', in particular by not putting a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.

What does this mean for 21st century church life and our engagement with difference in views over human sexuality? More when I can come back to this. But offer your answers in comments.

Epilogue: Back to the Pope's retirement. It is wonderful to see that the two great tasks of his office are simply stated in his announcement,

"in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel"

The strength of the Roman church lies in that phrase: a simple determination to continue its (Petrine) way and a clear, unwavering conviction that its mission is simply to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Would that all churches and church leaders were of similar steadfastness and focus.


hogsters said...

Search that following on youtube.

Benedict XVI: The search for meaning leads to hope

1:58 seconds of depth and truth.

Oh if all church church leaders could articulate such.

Bryden Black said...

Brilliant and glorious indeed Hogster! Thanks for the link

We might note the oft used practice of the Nicene Creed’s being sung. E.g. Monteverdi’s Mass ‘In Illo Tempore’ (1610) has a Creed which is quite exquisite, as is Biber’s ‘Missa Bruxellensis’ (1700) quite extraordinary, both catching the Beauty of the Lord. Similarly, Robert Jenson concludes his Systematic Theology volume 1 by likening the trinitarian dance to a fugue and his volume 2 with the statement “The End is music”. So Beethoven and Verdi are well placed!

As for leaders: we shall miss B16's clear sighted acknowledgment of the Gospel’s meaning. But at least we’ve his written Jesus trilogy now! Enjoy!

Paul Powers said...

In all fairness, neither shock nor surprise is out of place considering that it has been over half a millennium since the last pope abdicated.

Bryden Black said...

FYI: the text in English -http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-benedict-xvi-announces-his-resignation-at-end

Anonymous said...

A shame really. I like Benedict. He understood the challenges facing the Church and the West from both militant secularism and militant Islam. And he spoke with a moral clarity that is sadly lacking in some quarters of the AC.

MichaelA said...

Allow tme to put a contrary view (which is a silly thing to write, because Peter always allow contrary views to be put, but its nice rhetoric!)

I don't think Anglicans have any right to judge the Roman Catholic method of choosing their chief pastor. The decision is made by about 120 Cardinals drawn from all over the Roman Catholic world.

Everyone in Oceania does in fact have a representative - George, Cardinal Pell based in Sydney, something that I know our kiwi brethren will deeply appreciate ... ;o)

But seriously, the distribution of Cardinals is roughly representative of where the active Roman Catholics are. Hence there are e.g. many more cardinals from South America than from Oceania. There are also far more Cardinals from USA, Italy and Germany than from Sweden, Britain or Czechoslovakia - have a look at the number of active Roman Catholics in those countries and you will get a good idea why that is. I am no friend of the RCC, but we have to admit that there is a certain logic and fairness about the system.

Now, I hear you say, 'that is hardly Athenian democracy old boy'.

True. But let's compare it with the Anglican system:

The head of the Worldwide Anglican Communion is chosen by 16 people, who all come from a single province! And six of those 16 are drawn from a single diocese within that province! Yet the man they elect is supposed to lead and represent some 85 million Anglicans, the vast majority of whom have no say, in any sense, in his election.

Yet we have the temerity to cast aspersions on the Roman Catholics because one third of their elector Cardinals are Italian - just a teensy bit unreasonable I suggest!

Father Ron Smith said...

"Everyone in Oceania does in fact have a representative - George, Cardinal Pell based in Sydney, something that I know our kiwi brethren will deeply appreciate."

- Michael A, Sydney -

George Pell had a bosom buddy in Syddey, the Anglican Archbishop. On their conservative theology alone, both might be equally acceptable as the next Pope - by Sydney Anglicans

MichaelA said...

Hmmm, Father Ron your silence about my point (head of the Anglican Communion being chosen by a small bunch of people from one province) is somewhat deafening!