My dysfunctional spiritual background includes a large dose of Anglicanism. Although the theological parts didn't take, the socio-political ones sure did.
I was bemused to read that our Evangelical Methodist Dubya had attended an Episcopal church in Washington to pray for the pope, and presumably other things. Why not a Catholic church, one wonders? And what about the home corral?
I was shocked to my foundations to read that the Episcopal rector had offered a prayer for "His Holiness, Pope John Paul II."
When I was young, and dutifully trotting through Episcopacy, The prayer would have been for "John Paul, Bishop of Rome." In Anglican doctrine, that is all the pope is.
Next, we learn that the Prime Minister of the U.K. will be the first of his office in history to attend a papal funeral. In past years, neither the British government nor monarchy has sent so much as a sympathy card to the Vatican on such occasions.
Holy F. Shit!
Then, as if the seismometer at Henry VIII's crypt wasn't active enough, we're told the Archbishop of Canterbury would also attend the funeral, and
that the ill-starred prince Charles has postponed his wedding to Camilla by a day to avoid conflict with the obsequies.
Jesus H. Christ! What happened to the Reformation?
The Guardian comes to the rescue. OK, so it's a bit odd to find the Guardian as startled by this as I am. Editorially, they're microscopically to the right of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, regard Tony Blair as an apostate and seldom miss a chance to bash him.
The paper is encouraging amateur paparazzi to follow the PM around during the coming election for a contest amusingly called "The Blair Watch Project."
I digress. The Guardian suggestion is that this is one more symptom of a government that has lost its way. Guardian columnist Martin Kettle
also points out a factor just as telling. For Blair, for Atkinson, for Dubya, this pope wasn't a religious figure so much as he was a celebrity. The significance, then, is the absolute insignificance of attending this funeral for any other reason than to be seen.
The Catholic Church has a very full plate in the coming years. Another schism--this one perhaps terminal-- is a real possibility. All this comes after 26 years of papal celebrity, during which the incumbent has defined the papal gimmick as conservative moral certitude. The Catholic Church has naively thrown in its lot with evangelical Protestants who may not wish Rome as well as Rome thinks. Still, these overtures have, in a perverse way, given the Church more primacy in matters of faith than it's had in 500 years. It follows that a schismatic Catholic church bodes ill for all Christianity. A little of that collegiality John Paul rejected would be useful to Christians just now.
Thoughtful cardinals sound as if they recognise the gravity of the church's situation. What they don't get is that the successor will inherit the celebrity and the schtick, and may be unable to do anything except be the world's moralist-in-chief: the media culture won't allow it.
PS: Just found a piece in Salon.com
that may strike a note with anyone who has either a mixed or purebred Catholic background. I don't know if it will look the same outside of that cultural context. I'm the mongrel type, and it sure got my attention.
PPS: Loved watching Bush pere et fils plus Bill Clinton kneeling at the papal bier. George Senior, the rock-ribbed Espiscopalian, knew to bow his head. Bill Clinton, master of the right gesture, bowed as well. Then there was Dubya, gazing absently at a spot somewhere south of the late pope's feet with his copyrighted "deer in the headlights" stare, perhaps trying to remember who this was and why he was there. It is a wonder they let this man out alone.