That Lawyer Dude is a blog that is a blawg. That is to say that while it is not written for lawyers it is written about law... For the most part. Today I am departing from the format for just a second to pray for and wish good fortune on a Man who today walks in the Shoes of the Fisherman. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Berlin Germany is today Pope Benedict XVI.
The name a Pope chooses is important in that it is often an indication of what the agenda is of the new man who heads the largest church in the world. Benedict means "blessed" which is one way to see this man as humble. That he should feel blessed to be named to this position. It may mean he seeks the blessing of the Lord in his work. I think however it is an indication that he is going to follow an agenda of reconciliation to the World's other religions like the previous Pope Benedict XV did during and just after World War I.
I found it interesting that the conclave has reported out another European Pope who has suffered through the detestable behavior of the Nazi Regime. It was his belief in God and his decision to follow the Lord into the priesthood that kept Benedict XVI from active service in the Nazi army. I think that his dislike of the behavior of that regime will be an important part of his ability to continue to bring understanding and patience into the Churches relationship with Israel and the Jewish people.
I grew up in a predominately Jewish neighborhood on Long Island in NY. Many of my friends had parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and occasionally siblings who were tattooed with a number and had been in a concentration camp. So many were robbed of their spirit, and of their loved ones. I think that the stories they told of being turned upon by their government and their neighbors is one of the main reasons I abhor too much power in the hand of the government and a reason I am distrustful of a government that promises to " solve " all our problems. I often as a boy wondered, about the role of the church during WWII and why it was not taking a stronger stand against regimes that clearly seemed to me to be evil. As I became older and studied International Relations, I began to realize that Vatican City was not the best place to criticize Mussolini and Hitler. I also was proud of those individual Catholics that protected their Jewish brethren at great risk to themselves. I was always very proud of my Uncles John, Mario, and Joseph who risked life and limb to rescue not only Jews but all of Europe from Hitler and the Nazi's. Later as a college student I became acquainted with the efforts of my Grandparents home town and the work that those farmers did to not only protect the few Jews they knew but in buzzing the Nazi/fascist war effort. Nevertheless it always left me feeling guilty that the Pope did not say more.
John Paul II brought an end to that guilt. His simple apology at the Wailing wall spoke volumes for those like my family that took the ultimate chance to save others they didn't even know. Even his efforts during the war was a source of pride for all Catholics. Our pope was brave and defiant in the face of tyranny. He loved freedom and understood better than anyone what Thomas Jefferson meant when he wrote :
"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
It was this understanding that these rights come from a Creator and are God given that lead John Paul II to be such the leader he was. John Paul was the Pope of my age. He and I were so much in the same place. We both hated state tyranny and communism. We both love God and Jesus and The Holy Mother. He really returned the Virgin Mary to her rightful place in our religion.
Moreover Pope John Paul II felt like family. His predecessor Pope Paul felt like a symbol for me. Not one I liked very much in my rebellious youth. John Paul II however was reachable because he was so good at explaining doctrine and being responsible for his positions on church matters. It also helped that John Paul II seemed to love the American spirit. Its vibrancy and its youthful vitality. It always seemed that prior popes looked askance at us her in the US. For John Paul II he seemed to understand how young we were as a nation. He helped our nation and our local church to grow. Giving us Props when we deserved it and scolding us when he felt we failed. He understood the importance of giving us bishops and cardinals who could communicate with their flocks. He was unafraid to place them in positions of prominence. Witness Cardinal McCarrik of Washington and the late John Cardinal O'Connor of NY. Finally Pope John Paul looked so happy, He seemed to take such joy in little things like a new baby or a child's smile, or a chant "JOHN PAUL TWO, WE LOVE YOU." Yeah it was goofy but he understood that we weren't being disrespectful we just loved him so much that we wanted to hold him close to us. He understood better than any religious leader I ever saw how important it is to be one of your flock.
Like any conservative I have a healthy fear of change. It is not one that imobilizes, it just makes me a little standoffish and gives me a wait and see attitude. Pope Benidict XVI has always been described as a hatchet man. His brief forced membership in the Hitler youth and in the Nazi war machine reinforces a kind of distance he will have to learn to overcome if he is to win over the hearts and minds of his diverse and splintered congregation. It is said he is as good a communicator as was John Paul II. I pray he is.
I am praying for him that he is able to bring together our church. I pray he can find a new way to rejuvenate the Orders. I hope he understands and is willing to face the challenges that new and maybe more dangerous "leaders" bring to the table. I pray that he has an agenda that moves the church forward and continues its success in the third world. But mostly I pray for him, That he stay healthy, and prayerful. That he not let the enormity of his calling overwhelm him so that he cannot enjoy the beauty of our people in all of their forms. That he not be so tired of debate that he loses the patience it takes to listen and explain. That he not try too hard to replace John Paul II, but rather that he instead leave us wanting more when goes to his heavenly reward. Mostly I pray that he understands that while we Know he is Pope Benedict XVI and that he not think it insulting if we chant "BEN 16 WE THINK YOUR KEEN". May God bless his noble servant Benedict XVI and his church, and those that believe in a higher power, no matter what they call Him.
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