Friday, April 03, 2009

Not an Anti-Semantic Comment

From the Washington Post, Friday, April 3:

Pope Benedict XVI marked the fourth anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II with a memorial Mass on Thursday and new prayers for the Polish pontiff's beatification.

Prayers are always appreciated. Whether you believe in them or not, it’s the thought that counts. It’s nice for Benedict to pray for JP’s soul, but for beatification, which leads to sainthood? It’s not God Who makes that Decision: men do. In this case, a man appointed by Benedict, Archbishop Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Sainthood is nice, too, but it’s not a God-given appellation. (Neither is pope, but that’s a different heretical post.) It’s something the Catholic Church came up with on its own, for its own reasons. I think of it as the Hall of Fame for Catholics, but that’s probably the heretic in me talking.

Canonizing someone does not make that person a saint; officially, they were always a saint. Canonization is only the earthly recognition of this fact. This means God has already done his Part; it’s just a matter of getting we slow catchers-on to get with the program. Benedict has already waived the traditional five-year waiting period for canonization. Now he’s publicly praying and advocating for it, even though John Paul II is already either a saint, or he isn’t. Nothing Benedict, or any Catholic official, can do will change that. They’re just deciding about the human, earthly acceptance of it. (Which could be wrong, whichever way it comes down. Humans, unlike deities, are not infallible.)

Benedict isn’t really praying; he’s lobbying. He has his own bully pulpit as jefe Catolica, and he’s getting out The Word to those who will make the actual decision—and work for him—how he wants it to come out. Which is fine. Spare us all the mysticism. It’s not like a huge golden hand came through the ceiling and tapped Benedict alone of all the cardinals to make him pope; he won an election. Took several ballots, too. This means men chose him, independent of divine inspiration. God may be a lot of things, but not many would argue He’s indecisive.

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