Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Let the Peaches Be

An American Pope: Devil's Advocate

Just a quick note about the logic that there shouldn't be an American Pope because they don't want to have a Superpower Pope.

The Cardinals may think that way, but if they do they are stupid.

There's nothing wrong with having a Superpower Pope, really. For much of history (whether it was imperial Rome or late-medieval France) we had Superpower Popes.

The Pope should not be reduced to the status of something like the Secretary General of the United Nations, a token post of "diversity" that does nothing to actually balance the Superpower status of the United States, an impotent humanitarian figurehead. Yet this is what I feel like another European or Third World Pope will be: basically like the Secretary General of the UN.

Whereas a Superpower Pope would be able to muster the significant resources, the wealth and power, of the American Church. At the same time, he would, precisely because he was an American, be able to stand up to the force of American Imperialism and US hegemony and the federal government and such. Can you imagine if there were an American holding an office comparable to the US presidency in prestige? I don't think we should assume they'd be in bed with each other, I think we should assume they'd be at loggerheads and serve as a "check and balance" on each other. An American Secretary General might be in the pocket of an American agenda; I don't think the same thing would be true about a Pope.

Personally, I'd really like to see O'Malley actually, though I'm not betting it will happen.

But having a Pope from the current Imperial Core makes perfect sense to me, as far as conniving political considerations go. As goes America, so goes the world. America already exports Coke and McDonald's to the whole world. It also exports Christianity, but currently of an evangelical variety mainly. It might not hurt to try to muster some of that influence for our side.

I feel like an American Pope is the only sort of Pope that, say, the suits in Washington could ever really respect as opposed to just patronizing. Of course, a Saint shouldn't want worldly respect, but do we want a Saint, or do we want a Pope?! 

And I also feel like only an American could be as bullheaded as needed to clean things up, sometimes. Not that the bullheadedness would be totally good; I'm sure there would be many brash and indelicate and overly politicized actions of an American Pope that would leave me cringing or rolling my eyes. But at a certain point in history maybe you need some of that to balance the timidity we've too often seen.

It may well not happen. The conventional wisdom may be "correct." But it's stupid. Someone from the The Belly of the Beast could be just what we need.

Friday, February 15, 2013

God Bless Lili St. Cyr!

The game has been disbanded, everyone. Nothing left to see here.

Monday, February 11, 2013

One Day

Just For Fun: Questions This Raises, and How I Would Answer Them

I'm not in charge of the papal transition after this resignation, of course, but there are a few questions it raises regarding Benedict's new role. Some answers are already being floated, but here's how I would answer them, regardless of if this is how things will actually turn out:

1) What should the former Pope's title be?

The best thing, I think, would be to call him Bishop Emeritus of Rome.

2) What place will he have in the "tables of precedence" in the Church? Will he retain the Cardinalatial dignity?

Traditionally, being a Cardinal means that you hold one of the Titles (Sees or parishes or deaconries) in Rome, and on becoming Pope that would seem to cease, given that his former Cardinalatial Titles now have new holders. Still, I think he should definitely remain considered a sort of "Cardinal" or equivalent, part of that College, even though, being over 80, he won't have a role in future conclaves (and should bow out of that anyway, for propriety's sake). He should be ceremonially considered immediately after the new Pope in rank, and a supra-numerary member of the Cardinal-Bishops, similar to Eastern Catholic Patriarchs who are made Cardinal (who, as far as I understand, have no specific Title other than their patriarchate). Or maybe the next Pope will actually re-create him a Cardinal or give him a suburbicarian See if one becomes available, but that seems unnecessary.

3) What name will he use?

I actually would think it would make the most sense if he continued to be referred to as "Benedict" and "Your Holiness" (after all, the Queen Mum/Dowager continued to be referred to as "Your Majesty" and given all the dignities afforded a Queen). Surely, when he dies, he will be buried as "Benedict XVI" (and given the Novemdiales and all that, I assume, during the reign of the next Pope) so to stop using that name "in the meantime" doesn't make much sense. Though perhaps he should cease to use the regnal number and be called "Benedict, Bishop Emeritus of Rome" or something like that, after the manner of "Diana, Princess of Wales" when the divorce left her no longer Princess (ie, not used as a Title/prefix).

Some news sources were already reporting that he will revert to "Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger," but if he is to change, I think a neat twist as Bishop Emeritus of Rome would still be to refer to him as "Benedict [Cardinal] Ratzinger." If "His Holiness" is refused, then "His Beatitude" like a patriarch might be best, given that emeritus patriarchs continue using that title, or His Eminence again. If he isn't considered to remain a Cardinal, then maybe "Joseph Benedict" after the model of his hero Pope St. Celestine V (Pietro da Morrone) who became known as "Peter Celestine" after his resignation...

4) What will he wear?

I think there should be no problem (to analogize to Queen Dowagers again) in him continuing to wear the white (after all, dead popes wear white in their caskets, and they aren't pope anymore either!) with perhaps the State dress of a Pope (ermine mozzetta, etc) as his choir-dress (assuming he ever attends a public liturgical even, which may not happen; he may lay really low from now on). 

But I expect we'll mainly see him in the simple cassock of priest, given his new "retired" life in the Vatican monastery. Or, he may also revert to the red of a Cardinal for formal occasions (if he does make any such appearances).

Or maybe it would be best to create a new outfit that is a bishop's cassock with a white sash and zucchetto? For choir dress, I'm not sure; maybe the red of a cardinal but then retaining the ermine mozzetta, a white zuchetto or biretta, and a white sash?


Thursday, February 7, 2013

In Summary: The "Maybe-God" and "Seekularism"

My last three posts rambled on a lot and took a lot of tangents because I was working out my thoughts here. In summary, I've been working through my thoughts on belief both personal and social, and how we are to approach it. There was a time when I thought it was sufficient to just view belief as personal with no sociological dimension. I thought that it wasn't important to have a "political" vision since no individual can be obligated to implement an entire social system, and so worrying about Christendom and such was pointless, serving strange psychological purposes. (Then again, there was another time when I was insisting on a totalitarian vision of Christendom, for indeed strange psychological purposes of my don't look to me if you are looking for someone who never changes or evolves!) 

Now, this remains in some sense true: the practice of faith cannot depend, strictly speaking, on having an already perfect community or social framework created for us, as we need to "live towards" that. If my practice of religion is paralyzed until I've fantasized into being a medieval religious "paradise" or something like that, this is no religion at all. However, just because we can't immanentize the eschaton socially (and, I'm learning, neither can we personally), doesn't mean that belief isn't inherently social or political. Specifically, I don't think belief can be separated from a social vision; imagining the good life necessarily involves imagining the good society.

And this creates not only desires for how we wish ourselves to be, but involves a certain desire for how we would want others to act and be. And yet, there is clearly a big issue here; most of us nowadays (especially readers of this blog) see the notion of imposing our beliefs on other people as problematic. Even if the imposition only takes the form of a wish, wishes express themselves in attitudes and behaviors towards others and society, both in our political actions and in the personal sphere. Believing in a truth requires at least hoping for something regarding other people as well. And, in a certain sense, our political vision of the world comes to exist in microcosm in our own mind; how we engage ideas becomes how we engage people, and how we imagine God socially is reflected in how we relate to Him personally (and vice versa).

However, what does this mean for Christians? This is what I have spent the last few posts fleshing out. I have concluded that we cannot rightly imagine a world where our God is the "public God" (ie, the transcendent organizing value or final good organizing social life) because by institutionalizing Him, "enforcing" Him through an alliance with Power...means that He then becomes an idol ("God™") and besides, that is the recipe for all manner of totalitarianism and persecution politically and socially. This is equally true for God(™) psychologically for the individual if we have that sort of attitude. Pluralism developed so that we wouldn't kill each other over invisible things and questions without immediately tangible concrete effects in the public sphere. But hating is as bad as killing, as Christ made clear. So we must also cultivate a "mental pluralism" or else we risk becoming a dictator in our own personalities (as it were: the superego entirely in control.) An "open system" is instead required.

However, I discussed how pluralism on first glance seems to contain a variety of internal contradictions. Specifically, there is the paradox of "no meta-narrative!" becoming a meta-narrative itself. The threat of a "dictatorship of relativism" was not mere fear mongering on Ratzinger's part, for there is a real sense in which relativism itself just becomes then a bizarre "exclusive claim against exclusive claims," and one wonders what the point of not asserting a truth is if that itself is not supposed to be a truth. So there is a very real danger that secularism or pluralism of the wrong sort can become just another ideology, even while they claim to be ideologically neutral, securing a free market for ideologies (as, analogously, a free market and democracy themselves, conceived wrongly, can become equally oppressive if they merely represent "freedom from" rather than "freedom for," or the regulation of an amoral freedom). 

The problem is that it often seems like secular pluralist systems try to solve the problem of having no official public god for the community by simply proposing no god at all, as if that means that they're neutral! But it doesn't. Because "no god" is also a god, of course, the god (or, rather, "non-god") of atheism. As such, this sort of pluralism that throws the weight of society and/or the State behind No God winds up actually supporting atheism in a certain very real sense (and, ironically, turning the non-god of atheism into a god-shaped void of an idol).

But is there any way out of this? Can there ever be a truly neutral system that proposes no god, if even proposing no god is, in effect, just proposing another (non-)god, another ideology implicitly? Arguably, no. Many would conclude from this that we must then fight for our God to be made the Public God. But this winds up making Him into God™ as I discussed. But if God cannot be the public god, but there is always some public God...what are we supposed to desire or imagine?? It seems a damned if you do, damned if you don't sort of situation (literally, perhaps!)

In truth, this is what my previous post was about, on the Death of God(™), about the danger of reducing God to a straightforward self-equivalency (which notion of identity always breaks down). The way, I think, to solve the conundrum outlined above is not to make the public god the Non-God of atheism, but rather what I would call the "Maybe-God" (such as might be associated with true agnostics). But the Maybe-God is not just the God of agnostics. Rather, that "maybe" can of course be identified with our God, with any God, even with No God. 

If the public attitude of society is not one of there being no god (at least, effectively), of acting "as if" there is no God, but rather one of there being "maybe God," acting as if there might be, then no particular ideology is favored. Society would then not promote any one Truth as The Truth(™), but nevertheless would actively support the search for Truth, whatever it may be or not be.

Zizek said something about how the believer is the truest atheist, and the atheist the truest believer. I would not be inclined to say that (I don't understand the statement enough to comment!), but maybe I could agree to an idea something like that the truest believer must be the truest agnostic. A true believer will have no idols, not even the idol of ideology, and so all our beliefs must be "open" epistemologically. There may be one sense in which the word "doubt" describes a particular sin against faith; I can't speak to that really, I am not an expert on the infused theological virtues. But there is another sense of "doubt" which is essential for believers.

Basically, I think society (and the Church too in its pastoral politics) should not be indifferent to the question of God or Truth or Goodness. It can't be, for one. The No God of atheism is also a god, as I've said. The No Truth of relativism becomes its own Truth. The No Good or No Meaning of nihilism becomes its own vision of the good or of meaning. Rather, society or politics should be about that "freedom for" rather than "freedom from," and that "freedom for" is freedom for seeking the Maybe God, the Maybe Truth, the Maybe Good, the Maybe Meaning. This has implications for our own personal morality and spirituality too, as I've said. And it certainly doesn't prohibit individuals from coming to hold a specific non-agnostic vision of God or the Truth or the Good or Meaning (or the absence of these); in fact such a system encourages people to strive towards finding such a vision (or non-vision)!

This Maybe God might be identified with Eckhart's "Godhead" that I discussed in the previous post. The God beyond God, the God beyond the Being/Non-Being and God/Not-God dualities, the divine essence of which we believe God to be the "instantiation" as it were. By proposing this Godhead as the god of pluralism, we avoid both idolatry and ideology. Everyone has their God (including the atheists with their non-god), or is seeking one, but society should value Godhood first. In other words, we all believe that some things are the truth, but we must always remember that Truth comes before "The Truth" and that we can make an idol out of "The" if we let it become The Truth™. 

So maybe Prince Charles's idea of being titled "Defender of Faith" rather than "Defender of the Faith" not so absurd after all, I'm thinking. I don't know what such a system would necessarily look like concretely, but perhaps it would involve things like how certain European countries fund religious groups (ie, fund all religious groups, or their non-religious ideological equivalents, in proportion to their populations), or how Canada has a public Catholic school system (though, again, for all groups that want to have their own schools). Rather than being officially "secular" in a way that is indifferent to the deeper questions of life (and thus secretly not indifferent to them, like atheism) perhaps, for true pluralism, society or the State should construct itself as Seeking (or "seekular"?? lol...I like portmanteaus!)

I said at the beginning of this post that believing in a truth requires at least hoping for something regarding other people as well. Christians are believers in the Dead God, the God beyond God, a people who with Meister Eckhart understand that "Godhead" takes priority even over "God." So what we should hope for others is that they honestly seek Him and have the freedom to do so (again, this is Mother Theresa's "help a Hindu be a better Hindu" idea, I think). So thank God for Vatican II! Society can and should value and actively promote Goodness and Truth (or, at least, "Maybe Goodness" and "Maybe Truth") and see freedom as freedom for those things (rather than freedom from)...yet still without taking any particular position on what constitutes The Good or The Truth (ie, still having freedom from oppression). And, I think, it can actively support the Maybe-God of Seekers (by which I mean, I think, the Dead God) without making any god (or non-god) The God™ publicly (who can only ever be an idol and an ideological tyrant.)