Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Pope John Paul II

I'm not Catholic, obviously, but the death of such a prominent Christian leader is worthy of mention even by Protestants.

My mother was a Catholic. She was excommunicated in 1964 for the grievous sin of marrying a Protestant in a Protestant church. I believe this was before the 2nd Vatican and wouldn't happen today, but the pettiness of denominational divisions continues to bother me. (To be fair, the Baptists forced her to do an immersion baptism because her Catholic infant baptism wasn't good enough and despite the fact that she is deathly afraid of water, so the Catholics weren't the only ones who were being pretty unreasonable.) When I think of the story of my parents difficulties with "religious differences," I always think of the Cheers episode where newlyweds Kelly and Woody discover they are -- GASP! -- two different kinds of Lutheran! Kelly asserts that while they will both go to heaven, they will be separated by barbed wire and barking dogs. The other thing I think of is the old joke about the nun teaching first grade in Catholic school and when she asks the children what they want to be, a little girl says "I want to be a prostitute!" The nun gasps in horror and asks the girl to repeat herself. She does, and then nun sighs in relief. "Oh, I thought you said you wanted to be a Protestant!"

So what does this random musing have to do with the death of the pope? While I recognize the great accomplishments of a devout man, I also am very leery of the direction he has taken the Catholic Church. I fear a return to the pre-2nd Vatican days. I suppose it isn't my place to worry about these things; there's enough to worry about in my own denomination and the direction our leaders are taking us. But we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and so I worry about the Christian Church in general.

Nevertheless, he was not my pope, so I will close with the words of a friend of mine who is Catholic:

Now we enter a new era, and his successor has big shoes to fill. But before we move on to the uncertainty - and the politics - of the election of a new pontiff, Catholics will take time to thank God for the gift of the man who shepherded the Church for so many years.

Rest in Peace, John Paul.


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