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April 14, 2005

Pope-pouri

-- by Gary Boatwright

Credit to The Daily Show, the only real news show in America, for my title. I'm a simple wayward Presbyterian, so I'm not real familiar with Catholic doctine. I was thinking about all of the bruhaha over Cardinal Law's role in the Pope's funeral. It looks like atonement is primarily a Jewish concept. Catholics focus more on contrition and penance. There seems to be some dispute over the idea of substitutionary atonement in both Catholic and Christian doctrine.

I bring these topics up because I was wondering just how much of an honor it really was for Cardinal Law to lead one of the funeral masses for the Pope. If I was a disgraced Cardinal, the last thing I would want to do is step on to the national stage once again.

Was Cardinal Law's participation in the Pope Paul's funeral mass a form of public absolution from the church or was it more similar to an act of atonement and recognition that the Catholic Church still has a lot of work to do to demonstrate genuine contrition for harm done?

I'm just asking.

Posted by Gary Boatwright at April 14, 2005 8:02 AM

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I'm not sure here. It might have been a way of showing absolution. The whole bishop/priest/cardinal's done something bad contraversy was addressed by the Catholic Church a long time ago, specifically with the Donatist heresies around 300-400 CE. This was just as Constatine had legalized Christianity, so there were a whole lot of priests/bishops/etc. who had done various things while the church was persecuted. Some had gone to their deaths or been tortured and never given up the faith. Others, however, had lied about being a Christian, given up real and/or fake copies of scripture to be destroyed by the Romans and other such failings, as the Church saw it. The question was: Were the sacrements given by such fallen/sinfull preists valid? There was a split of opinion: some thought that only priests who hadn't waivered could give a valid sacrement, others thought that would put the people's faith in the sacrements at risk because they could never know if the priest that had just led Mass had faltered or not. The Church decided in one of the first councils on the later option, since they did not want their believers to have to prove that their priest was without sin in order to validate their sacrements.

In this case, it's more likely that all the cardinals were celebrating a Mass for the pope. Thus even the disgraced ones can still provide a valid sacrament. And since the Christian church is based on forgiveness, if the Cardinal is properly penitant in the eyes of the church, his penance is a private matter between him and God. Assuming that's been done, I would think it's more on the public absolution side here.

Posted by: leathermartini at April 14, 2005 9:02 AM

As I understand it this is normally seen as a reward.

The opportunity to say a mass for a dead pope is seen as an honor, in part because it normally gives the Cardnial the opportunity to give a homily where he can start to express his opinion of the roll of Pope, and what should be looked for in the next one.

Since Cardinal Law is reported to not have given a homily, maybe some other factors were in play.

Posted by: John at April 14, 2005 9:55 AM

I no longer practice the faith but my mother refuses to let me leave.

so, this gives me the right to comment...I think.

For what Cardinal Law did, deserves the press he's got, the shame he's caused and the grief he endures. To place him on the international stage is another slap in the face of those who were abused.

Law should have been indicted as a co-conspirator but in this country, the powerful do not pay for the crime, he walked. If the Mother Church really stood by its own teachings, they would have placed Law in an obscure monastery on a lonely hilltop to meditate over his sins.

The teachings of Christ have been politicized since Paul got drunk and fell off his horse.

Catholicism is just another political force. Except for the wardrobe, it has almost nothing to do with faith.

WWJD? Hold his hands to his face and weep.

Posted by: David Aquarius at April 14, 2005 10:05 AM

When Law stepped down in Boston, he took the position as chaplain to convent in Maryland. So that was kind of his penance: step down from one of the top positions in the US Catholic Church to the obscurity of a monastery. Of course, he's still a bishop and still a cardinal. After a year or so of that the pope appointed him to be archpriest of one of the four basilicas in Rome. In that office, it was entirely appropriate for him to say one of the memorial masses. Whether he should have been in that office in the first place is where I, and lots of other US Catholics, have an issue.


One problem with the heirarchy in dealing with the pedophelia problem is the concept of contrition. Once they caught a priest, he would seem contrite and they hoped he saw the error of his ways would go and sin no more. No need to embarass the church, the incident is over. This totally misunderstands the recidivism of pedophiles and the problem got worse and worse.


The other issue is the curia in Rome just didn't get the outrage and betrayal the laity in the US felt. They just considered it a problem with the uppity Americans and their anti-Catholic scandal seeking press.


So to answer your questions, yes it was an honor, but it was commensurate to his office as archpriest. No, I don't think it's any sort of public absolution. That's just not Catholic. The fact that he got the archpriest appointment is evidence that the Pope thought the whole scandal was behind him.

Posted by: Jeff at April 15, 2005 12:56 PM

"The Daily Show, the only real news show in America"

Other than Democracy Now! and INN World Report, perhaps.

Your question concerning Christian semantical ceremony fills me with great apathy.
In other words: who the fuck cares? The entire religion makes no sense, and this little protrusion makes as little sense as the rest....

But since the topic has been brought up, I'd like to know exactly what Jesus' big sacrifice was? He went up to Heaven to be with Daddy, this supposedly for our sins, whatever that means as we can all still go to Hell, which is fine to all the card carrying Heaven's Club members, for some reason...
and all this against his will!
If the guy would've volunteered to go down to Hell and be tormented for eternity on behalf of humanity that we might be free of this awful punishment, THAT would be dying for our sins.
but he didn't and the minorly enlightened guy even had his crises of faith while nailed to the cross, which to me seems akin to those Cambodian monks who immolated themselves in protest of the war getting up and screaming "OH SHIT! THIS REALLY HURTS! SOMEBODY PUT ME OUT!! I'M DYING OVER HERE!!"


Posted by: The Cosmic Fluke at April 15, 2005 1:21 PM

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