That 70s Show

A recent AP poll showed that while American Catholics and non-Catholics loved and revered Pope John Paul II, they disagree with his conservative stances and want the Church to change. Yet the poll group was sharply divided as to how change should be effected. 11% wanted the Church to be “groovier”, while 20% said it should be more “fly”, 33% wanted it to be “Rad”, 36% thought it should strive to be “totally awesome”. Noticeably absent from these demands were the results of polls from previous decades which called for the Church to be “hep”, “have a zoot suit with reat pleat”, be “neato” and “23 skiddoo”.

Well, not really. But they may as well have done so as run a poll which discovers that, “Admiration for Pope John Paul II aside, most Americans surveyed in a poll – Catholics and non-Catholics alike – would like to see a successor willing to institute far-reaching changes: allowing priests to marry and women to join the priesthood.”

Yawn. You just knew they’d do it. And you just knew they’d say, “John Paul opposed those breaks with church tradition during his 26 years as pontiff, and the Vatican is unlikely to move quickly to alter the rules. Yet, many Americans surveyed in an Associated Press poll say it is time for the Roman Catholic Church to embrace the modern era.”

The press has never figured out that the Catholic faith is not the private property of the Pope, nor that he cannot remake in his (or our) image and likeness at a whim. But the idea that revelation can come to us through the custodian of a Tradition who is not at liberty to alter it however he pleases just does not compute. The only thing for a museum piece like the Catholic Tradition to do is “embrace the modern era”.

The funny thing is: for the pollsters and their respondents, the modern era seems to have gotten stuck. Some of us have lived 26 years since 1978 while others have simply lived 1978 26 times. And so the Usual Suspects come out of the woodwork to say the usual stuff about the Pope: The Richard McBriens brushed off their clerics to come out to complain that the Pope’s insistence on celibacy has kept their superior genes from entering the gene pool and improving the race. The Frances Kisslings show up to say that she can’t understand the mysterious thread that connects John Paul with the poor when he never once told the poor that they should murder their filthy snot-nosed brats. The media round tables of aging geezers from Catholic academe talk about how out of touch with the rising generation John Paul was as they roll the film clips of World Youth Days assembling such large masses of humanity in one place that the earth’s rotation is thrown off its axis. There are so many clueless quotes to choose from, but perhaps the most unintentionally funny one is from Fr. Robert Drinan:

While Drinan described the “great job” of John Paul, who visited Jewish synagogues and Islamic mosques, sought to heal old wounds and bring Catholicism to corners once dominated by communism, he said his death was “like a grandfather dying and one girl reminded me that her grandfather never approved of her jeans.”

Drinan, a reliable pro-abortion war horse who has even defended partial birth abortion surveys a papacy that has revolutionized relations between Christians and Jews, brought European communism down without a shot, and (one might add) made intellectual and theological contributions of such breadth and depth that the Church will take centuries to digest it all… and aptly compares his reaction to the death of this colossus to that of a selfish teenage narcissist who can think of nothing but her vanity over her jeans. It’s the apotheosis of American victim culture, in which the citizens of the most powerful nation on earth can see nothing but their own precious egos.

It’s beyond me why the media keep bringing out these mummified scarecrows from the Woodstock Generation. They don’t drag out the grinning political corpse of George McGovern to lobby for the New Direction of the Democratic Party at every convention. But they still think McBriens and Drinans have something to say. Heck! Even Hillary Clinton is figuring out that abortion is a losing issue. But Frances Kissling is still trotted out to try to persuade somebody that Catholics are eager to stick scissors in a baby’s brain and the Church should say “Amen” to that.

If they want to know the real future of the Church, they’d be smarter to interview my 16 year old, Matthew, who wept real, not crocodile, tears when John Paul died and who will be there with bells on to greet our next Holy Father at World Youth Day in Cologne. That is, if they can reach Matthew. He’s awfully busy with Youth for Life and learning the Catholic faith which, as Chesterton said, frees a person from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.

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