Whenever a pope dies or in this case resigns, The Eagle pulls out its laundry list of social, moral and occasionally theological (priestly ordination of women) issues that it believes the Church should change, with the implication being that it is obviously the right thing to do and if the Church does not acquiesce it will become irrelevant and relegated to the ash heap of history ("Benedict’s resignation an opportunity for Church," editorial, Feb. 12.) This is an opinion which has not for the first time been floated in the 2,000-year history of the Church, but has yet to come to fruition.
The function of the Church is the salvation of souls and the primary ministry of the papacy is to teach the gospel (good news) of salvation as revealed in the sacred Scripture and the apostolic tradition of the church. The pope does not have license to change this gospel message. Unlike our president, who receives his authority from the Constitution and governs by the will of the electorate, the pope receives his commission and authority from Christ. This difference allows President Obama’s thinking on same sex marriage to "evolve" depending on the attitude of the governed (and with a little push from Joe Biden). Whereas the pope does not have the authority to change Christ’s teaching but rather he is called upon by virtue of his office to constantly, consistently and courageously profess it.
Growing up in North Adams in the 1950s, the hot Catholic topic was divorce. The prevailing wisdom of the time dictated that as the practice had become ubiquitous the Church most definitely would have to change its position on divorce and remarriage. But the Church said no, that it could not, and has remained faithful to the gospel teaching on the indissolubility of this sacrament.
Now the topics have morphed to abortion, same sex marriage, embryonic stem cell research, artificial birth control and ordination of women, but the arguments for them remain essentially the same: "People who love each other should be allowed to get married, women should have the right to abort their children should they choose, it’s only fair to have women priests and not to, irrespective of a compelling biblical or apostolic tradition, is the result of sexism and misogyny on the part of the church." So the argument continues, "the Church must change too or else it will alienate its members and they will go elsewhere."
This is not a new contention. Jesus lost followers who felt that his teachings were too difficult to accept. The Church is not about the number who claim to be members but rather the faith of those members.
The pope must fearlessly proclaim the gospel message whatever the consequences. Surely he can and does alter various disciplines within the Church to accommodate the present age, but Christ’s moral and theological teachings are not relative and mutable.
I predict that based on the Church’s two millennial track record of adhering to the gospel message that The Eagle will once again be sorely disappointed with the next pope whoever he may be and on his demise will claim an "opportunity" has been squandered.