I’ve been thinking about the Pope. Not the ex-Pope who just “retired.” That’s just a man. I’ve been thinking about the notion of a Pope. The Office of the Pope that has thrived over the centuries; not the office that sits empty today.
I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools for 11 years. I never knew much about other religions beyond the fact that they existed. As a young adult I became disappointed with the dogma and hierarchy of the church and opted out of the whole idea of God, lacking the sophistication to separate the Baby from the bathwater. I could not support an organization that believed I was inferior based on my gender or an organization that seemed to be losing touch with how difficult it is to be human.
Yet, somewhere deep down in the rubble of my religious foundation, a few threads of emotional wiring are still connected and I find myself feeling uncomfortable about that vacant office in Rome. It’s the answer to why it is vacant that makes me uncomfortable.
As I look around at all of the beautiful Catholic churches and their associated schools that are also empty, the pedophile scandal, the chastisement by the church of the good women who work so hard to bring hope and spirituality into the lives of the desperate that live among us and now this physical retreat by Benedict, it is the end of the Catholic church as I knew it. Will it be redeemed? Will it rise from the ashes like a Phoenix?
It seems to me the only road to its survival as a viable religion is to go back to its roots; to do what it has always demanded of its followers, to go into that little brown booth and confess and ask for forgiveness. To stop trying to hide its “sins” and stop pretending there’s nothing wrong. Stop worrying about its wealth and power and go back to the beginning, to forgiveness, peace and love.
Since I believe all religions speak to the same God, and I have no idea what that God actually is, I believe in the end it really doesn’t matter what bucket we carry our faith around in, whether it’s Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Jewish, etc., yet, if we do chose to tie our faith to a particular star, we want to be damn sure they practice what they preach.
In the end, what sees us through is faith, regardless of what, if any, formal religion we choose; faith in the basic goodness of being human and faith that we are never truly alone.