Monday, April 11, 2005

Conclave preview

If you're reading this blog, you probably have the idea that the issues in week's papal conclave are not likely to be those that are near and dear to some of the church's loudest critics: women priests, gay marriage, acceptance of birth control, yadda yadda yadda. So what issues are likely to on the minds of the Cardinals when they begin to cast their fateful ballots? When you and I go into the ballot booth we at least have the knowledge that should we get a government that is considerably worse than we'd hoped - kinda like what happened in the last Federal election, actually- we know that we can get rid of them in the not too distant future. The cardinals will have no such luxury. The only thing thing they can do if playing it safe is their goal, is to make sure they do not elect a man as young as John Paul was in 1978. While Popes do not have the freedom to rule willy nilly - they can't overturn the deepest layers of tradition, after all- they can still ostracize thinkers and subjects for years to come. Even so, these churchmen will likely be thinking a lot more long term than you or I, and with any luck they will be thinking much deeper than some of their critics are. John Paul's biographer, George Weigel, suggests four, or perhaps five, topics will be on their minds as they try to guide the church into the new millennium. He suggests that they will be:
  • "The first of these is the virtual collapse of Christianity in its historic heartland — western Europe."
  • "The second great issue is the Church’s response to the multi-faceted challenge posed by the rise of militant Islam."
  • "The third involves the questions posed by the biotech revolution."
  • "Questions of the Church’s intellectual discipline will also be discussed..."
  • "The 'foreign policy' of the Holy See [as it has been practised] for more than two generations"

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