New Pope

I was happy to see that the cardinals picked a conservative, Joseph Ratzinger, to be the new pope. As Pope Benedict XVI, he can be expected to hew to the line of keeping the church as a witness to truth, regardless of what modernists and relativists think.

The news media were quick to point out that many liberal American Catholics disagree with the church on such issues as celibate priests, no women being ordained and birth control. Well, there is a simple solution. Let them get out and become Unitarians or whatever pleases them.

Many Americans — Protestants as well as Catholics — suffer from what I call the Spoiled Brat Syndrome. Seeing themselves as the center of the universe, they think the world and everything in it, including whatever church they attend, should conform to their wishes.

That is a childish attitude. There is no need for the church to "catch up with the 21st century," as one person put it. Christianity is not a 21st-century religion. If you are a Christian, your choice is to obey the teachings of Jesus and his apostles. You don’t get to vote on them or pick some and reject others. And, if you are a Roman Catholic, you don’t get to set church doctrine, which is presumably based on those teachings. The Roman Catholic Church defines itself, and it is not defined by dissident priests or nuns or disgruntled lay members.

If, after counseling, the dissidents won’t shut up, then they should be ex-communicated. That’s the church’s polite way of saying "Go to hell."

I believe that what attracted so many young people to the previous pope was his absolute beliefs. In an age of moral relativity, which is to say an age of immorality, someone with steadfast beliefs in ultimate truth and who lives those beliefs has great attraction for a lot of people. Not the self-indulgent types, but those people who are looking for meaning in their lives.

Certainly the world would be better off if people conformed to Christian beliefs than it would be if Christianity tried to pander to modern whims and fads, which are not new. They are just the very ancient belief in hedonism and decadence in new verbal dress. If you are a believing Christian, then you surely know that Jesus did not come to this earth to teach people how to become wealthy or healthy or successful in secular pursuits.

I would suggest to Protestants that they worry more about preachers with six-figure salaries, mansions and expensive cars than whether priests are married or celibate. I believe Christ said something about it being easier to push a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. That is certainly not a modern thought.

Former basketball player Charles Barkley said something recently that I heartily agree with. He said that when he sees some of these TV evangelists, he knows that God must be (expletive for being extremely annoyed) to see these bozos speaking in his name. That is certainly true, I’m sure.

Christianity may well wither and die in this current flood of secularism. If so, it should die true to its roots. Trying to pander to people who hate it won’t save it.

I have great respect for people of faith, whether they are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or Hindu. They, at least, are not fooled by secular fairy tales or lulled into the false belief that happiness can be found in the pursuit and acquisition of stuff.

What people require for a good life, and many smart people have written books on this subject, are meaning and purpose. I personally have never met a self-centered person who was happy or content. The happy people I know are serving something greater than themselves — a cause, a religion or a family.

We humans are not the center of the universe, and the world owes us nothing. As for meaning and purpose, we have to find them. I believe the new pope will help a lot of people do just that.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969 to 1971, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.