22 September 2006

Pastor not Statesman

Taken from Shouts from the Piazza

...when the Pope's coat of arms was revealed much was made of the fact that he didn't include the now traditional triple tiara as an ornament in the coat of arms. It was said the Pope wished to de-emphasize his role as a monarch and head of state and play up his role as a pastor. Indeed while many criticized the move (self included) many who describe themselves as part of the more progressive wing of the Church lauded him for laying aside the inappropriate trappings of a secular ruler. Instead, it was argued, the symbol of the papal office should underscore his religious role in the Church and in the world.

However, now it is some of those same "progressive" people, some would even call them liberals despite the fact that that's a political rather than a religious distinction, are very critical of Benedict XVI for being "un-diplomatic" in his comments concerning faith, reason and violence. Now, all of a sudden they want less the theological thinker, less the pastoral leader and more of a statesman. Heads of State have to be diplomatic. Religious leaders do not. Heads of State have to weigh every utterance very carefully for possible ramifications. Pastors speak the truth regardless of the consequences. The Second Letter to Timothy exhorts to "...Be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching."

So now we have a Pontiff who takes that title seriously. He's not interested in the tip-toeing through the minefield of diplomacy. Rather, he wants to be a bridge-builder (that's what "pontiff" literally means) to travel over the fray and traverse the minefield by challenging others to a meaningful dialogue that involves taking a good hard look at yourself as well as learning from the experience of others. In addition, he isn't afraid to be the smartest person in the room. He's not going to dumb down the rhetoric in order to engage in dialogue.

By his own words and the choices he's making in the Curia the Pope is showing that his focus will be as Chief Shepherd of the flock. The Church's primary concerns will be articulated theologically not geo-politically. If the crown goes, then so does the "papal monarchy" and with it papal statemanship. In it's place we get a Shepherd who isn't afraid to step on a few toes, even when it is politically incorrect, in order to defend his sheep. So, for all those who cried "yay!" when the tiara disappeared this is the same guy who did it so you don't get to whine and moan that the Pope was "politically insensitive". This is what you get: the mitre in it's place means this guy is a bishop...not a politician.

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