I am not a Yankee's fan. I have nothing against the Yankee's and even consider them the greatest Major League Baseball franchise ever. It's just that I cheer for other teams. Which means it doesn't matter much to me who owns the Yankees, who manages the team or who they have playing shortstop. Now if I was a baseball insider, or worked for Major League Baseball or had season tickets to the Yankees I probably would care a whole lot and have many opinions about those things. But as it is I don't.
So I wonder why so many journalists and reporters who are not Catholic or are former Catholics who have sworn off the Church or nominal Catholics who last went to Mass in 1986 care so much and have so many opinions on who the Cardinals (the Conclave not the team) should elect as the new Pope? Unfortunately this has created the "Church of the Media" a virtual reality that bears little relationship to the real Church. So far I have read editorials and opinion pieces calling for the new Pope to be a nonCatholic, maybe a Baptist. Better yet many think the new Pope should be a woman or at least a nun. And many many reporters have issued clarion calls for the new Pope, whomever it is to support samesex marriage, lighten up on contraception and celibacy and at least ordain women as priests. One paper's 'religion reporter' simply cannot comprehend why there is still a Catholic Church and that we all aren't liberal Episcopalians by now. One TV talk show host, who is himself black and Protestant clearly declared that, " If a black African is elected he will in no way represent me". And of course if the Church really wanted to be hip, slick and cool it would allow the uneducated court of public opinion to elect the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church and not some old men dressed in red.
But the favorite mantra by far of the media is that the Church must be relevant. The talking heads and reporters seem to really be worried that the Church is losing its relevancy in today's world. (I mean I have a ponytail, aren't I relevant). Listening to them lament this almost makes me feel bad for them. We tried the relevant thing in the 70's and it worked out so well that Mass attendance plummeted from 70% to below 30%. So someone needs to tell them ever so gently that the Church is not concerned with being relevant. Rather it is the vocation of the Church to be faithful. We are relevant, relevant to Jesus Christ. While it does matter that the Church makes its message understandable and compelling to people in the world today that's probably not the relevant they mean.
So why is so much concern about who the next Pope will be coming from so many outside the Church? It's because the Church and the Papacy really do matter. They matter to the world at large and not just Catholics in the pews. The Church is an institution that is hard to side step no matter if you are walking around it or inside it. That's why if you are not part of it in some way you have to constantly fight against it to resist being drawn into it. Hence the reason for the anger, the harsh criticism and rash judgment coming from those who are no longer a part of it. It also matters because the Church is in so many ways the last "parent" in our culture. It is the final institution to offer clear guidance for structuring society and the individual life. Our culture so often plays the role of rebellious teen and like a teen who would never admit it, it looks to the parent for some stability and direction. I think many in the media know that the Church offers us the hope that this world is not all there is.
G.K. Chesterton once said, "The world will never tolerate a corrupt Church". To look at it another way, the world needs a healthy and vibrant Church to help navigate its way through time. Like or not, admit or not, we all have a stake in the Church and what happens to the Church. "Let's root, root, root for the home team"! So, GO Cardinals!
Love, Fr. JohnBACK TO LIST