View Full Version : The Cardinal - a story

km gresham
04-14-2005, 11:34 AM
Peggy Noonan - I wonder how close she is to the truth of it.

The Cardinal
A story about selecting the new pope.

Thursday, April 14, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

You are a cardinal of the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, a modern man, and for the past seven days, in private conversations in Rome with cardinals you trust, you've been admitting what you would never say in public.

You were shocked at the outpouring for John Paul II. You were shocked at the four million who came to Rome, at the line that stretched across the Tiber, at the tears.

You had no idea.

Not that you didn't have real affection for the old man. He was probably a saint. All that suffering, dragging his broken body into each day the past five years. That's a long time on the cross.

But you thought he was yesterday's news. Everyone had already said goodbye to him at those big audiences in the Paul VI hall. And let's face it, the church under John Paul was slammed every day as conservative, ossified, reactionary.

Here's another strange thing. In the polls on churchgoing and belief it's always Catholics on the street in Europe and America who say they want change and reform. They'd been saying it for years! And yet it was Catholics on the street from Europe and America--real nobodies, not to be impolite but just regular Catholics--who engulfed Rome to weep and yell Santo, Santo!

You sit and think: We have to consider what the crowds signified, what the outpouring meant. Maybe God was telling us something.
You try to walk through the data. Everyone says John Paul was popular because he was a rock star. He had a special appeal to the young. People loved him because he was so vibrant and dynamic.

Then you think--or rather that part of your mind that habitually questions your main themes on any given day tells you--Wait, the guy could barely walk, he couldn't even move his face. He looked like, God forgive me, the Hunchback or something. He was writing encyclicals and telling people what seems to be good is not good, and what seems to be old is true. That doesn't sound like a rock star.

You think: The fact is, John Paul was not an expression of his times, he existed in opposition to the times. He defended church doctrine and moral teaching because he thought they were true! He wouldn't abandon the truth. In the Catholic colleges of America they didn't see the truth he spoke as true. They thought it was archaic. Catholics in colleges and newsrooms, on campuses and on TV, are always going on and on about the world needs contraception, we need married priests, we need women priests. Now it's the right to die.

Then you think: But it wasn't them in the streets. It was regular Catholics in the streets! That's who was waiting 20 hours in the line that crossed the Tiber. It was the faithful and college kids and mom and pop from Toledo. It was the universal church.

And then it dawns on you: Maybe--maybe . . . Maybe people, being imperfect and human, live whatever lives they live but deep in their hearts--way down deep and much more than they know--they actually notice when somebody stands for truth. And they actually honor it. Maybe that's why in all the big modern democracies they'd burst into tears when John Paul came by, when he was visiting America and France and Germany. Maybe they knew they were not necessarily living right themselves but they were grateful--they were grateful on behalf of civilization!--that there was a man like him among us. They recognized him and honored him in their hearts. And then word came that he's dead and suddenly their hearts told their heads: Get on the train and go honor him. Because he adorned us. Because he was right. And we can't lose this from civilization, this beacon in the darkness.

The cardinal was getting a headache. So many colliding thoughts. Worse, they were thoughts at odds with the common wisdom. And the cardinal doesn't like to be any more at odds with the common wisdom than he absolutely has to be. Life is tough enough.
He goes to dinner at a fine Roman restaurant with a handful of cardinals. He has a glass of Chianti, and then two. The service is excellent. Rome knows how to treat a cardinal. And Rome appreciates the burden that faces them: how to replace John Paul, the man the church just found out is considered irreplaceable.

The cardinals' conversation turns to the funeral.

A Cardinal from South America says, "I had a thought. When the crowd kept applauding during the Mass--to me, looking out at them, it seemed as if they were saying: 'We're not just observers anymore, we're the Church, Hear us!' It seemed to me possibly quite significant."

Silence as they all considered this.

An old cardinal with what seemed a German accent cleared his throat.

"What they want, I believe, is a healthy church. For all John Paul's illness, they thought he was a healthy man. Emotionally and psychologically healthy in a way modern culture is not.

"It seems to me the meaning of the crowds, the meaning of the cries at the mass, is this: 'We loved this hero of truth, and we want a hero of truth.' They want someone who won't bow to the thinking of the world. They want someone who will clean the stables, too. The corruption and worldly values of the church, the sex scandals--these must be dealt with."

At this point an American cardinal made an indignant sound, and tried to interrupt. But the old cardinal raised his hand and continued.

"The church needs someone who'll clean the church, defend it and refresh it. At the same time we need a man who can engage the world intellectually on the coming bioethical dramas and explain why trying to create human life in a Petri dish will be the end of us, the end of humanity. For man will do what he can do, and when he can grow replacement humans to give people new hearts that will allow them to live forever, well, that's what they'll do. We'll have human fetal farms, you wait.

"But even more important than any of this, the new pontiff must have a holy soul. He must be a man who prays to God, is led by God, loves God above all. And here's the great problem for us: this person may not be the most charming or accessible person in the world."

A young cardinal leaned forward. "I don't disagree, my friend, but in order to teach the world you must draw its eyes and ears! We need someone who captures the imagination of the world. We can't lead unless they look and listen. For that we need a rock star."

Silence again.

Then a young cardinal from Asia said, "Excuse me, but I have less knowledge about our brother cardinals than you. Is there a man who has all that is needed plus he's a rock star?"

The cardinals thought. "No," said one. "Or not that we know."

"If that is true," said the cardinal from Asia, "It would seem our duty is to choose a great man who is not necessarily a dramatic or endearing figure. The Holy Spirit will give him voice. Our time will need greatness. 'For nowadays the world is lit by lightning.' "

There was silence again.

Someone called for the bill.

Outside was an enterprising crew from NBC.
"Your excellencies, how are the bishops thinking? After the outpouring of love the past 10 days, are you thinking that you need a dramatic figure, a rock star who'll capture the imagination of the world?"

"The Holy Spirit will decide," said the old Cardinal with the German accent.

And our modern cardinal walked home to the Vatican, met with his aides in the suite, lay down with his headache, which was now very bad, closed his eyes and thought: Now more than ever. He dragged himself up, and knelt by the bed.

Joe (SoCal)
04-14-2005, 12:02 PM
Karen, are ya Catholic ?

Joe (SoCal)
04-14-2005, 12:47 PM
Jeff it may seem that I don't read all of Karen's C&P but I do. I guess If I never read them I might not get so upset at time with her continued comment-less C&P. ;)

Pope John Paul II was a wonderful man all you need to look at are all my comments aside from Karen's C&P to see my feelings on the Pope.

[ 04-14-2005, 01:48 PM: Message edited by: Joe ( Cold Spring on Hudson ) ]

04-14-2005, 12:53 PM
Originally posted by Ironmule:
...a rock solid church can be a fine anchor in stormy times. :cool:

That's what I meant in my Rat for Pope thread.

km gresham
04-14-2005, 02:03 PM
No, Joe, and I'm a pretty sorry excuse for a Christian, but I like that more than popularity and acceptance among the "church of what's happening now" crowd goes into choosing the Pope. Pope John Paul II will be very difficult to replace. He was a giant among men in his faith and his steadfast obedience to God, even in his hour (years) of great human suffering.

04-14-2005, 02:10 PM
I'll see your C&P and raise you a C&P. From the Onion "Savage Love", (an advice column) also about the Pope. Everybody's talking about him.


I'm a pretty normal guy except for one thing: I'm sexually attracted to zombies. When I was a kid, I loved to watch horror films that featured them. Then as I became a teen, I started to masturbate watching zombie flicks. I fantasize about having sex with zombies while trying not to get bitten, but eventually I end up getting devoured. I also fantasize about a woman gangbanged by a group of zombies who then rip her apart and eat her. Is this a form of necrophilia? Are there any other people out there with the same fetish? When I was about 6, my best friend and I discovered the dead body of a drug addict in an abandoned house. Do you think that has something to do with my fetish?
Concentrating On Rotting People Sexually Exciting

Last week I promised my readers a column dedicated to advice for 15-year-old girls from adult women. But I'm afraid that column is going to have to wait. In light of the passing of Pope John Paul II, a column dedicated to female sexual and social empowerment somehow doesn't seem appropriate. So this morning I went digging through my inbox looking for a letter that better captured the zeitgeist.

Okay, CORPSE, you've got a zombie fetish. That's too bad. Though you're probably not alone, your fetish will complicate your love life. While GGG folks will cheerfully indulge their partners' kinks, there are limits to what a kinky boy can reasonably request. Naughty Catholic schoolgirl? Demanding Mistress? Secretary of State? Those are role-playing scenarios that any reasonably accommodating girlfriend would say yes to. But animated corpses, violent gangbangs, gruesome deaths, and cannibalism? The only women willing to go there will be the ones who share your fetish. (And if they're out there, they're online somewhere.) The sucks-to-be-you fact of the matter is that very few people find death attractive—look at how hard John Paul II clung to life. If a man who was convinced he was going to Heaven was that afraid of death, how do you think the average bar-slut will feel?

As to why you're a zombie fetishist, CORPSE, that's harder to say. Could it be all those movies you watched as a kid? Maybe, maybe not. Lots of kids watch zombie flicks, but only a few become zombie fetishists. Was it the dead body you discovered at age 6? Maybe, maybe not. Did the kid you were with grow up to be a zombie fetishist too? Probably not. I'm afraid there are no easy answers, CORPSE, no good explanations why one kid exposed to zombie flicks winds up with a zombie fetish, and another kid who watches the same zombie flicks does not. People are weird and sex is a ****ing head-trip. What can you do?

Okay, speaking of weird and perverse head-trips: This will come as a shock to many of my readers, but I'm Catholic—in a cultural sense, not an eat-the-wafer, say-the-rosary, burn-down-the-women's-health-center sense. I was so Catholic that I attended Quigley Preparatory Seminary North, a Catholic high school in Chicago for boys thinking about becoming priests. Along with my classmates, I got to meet the pope in 1979 when he dropped by our school during his visit to Chicago. We gave him a soccer ball.

Naughty Catholic schoolgirl? Demanding Mistress? Secretary of State? Those are role-playing scenarios that any reasonably accommodating girlfriend would say yes to.
I would be lying if I said I wasn't pleased to see John Paul II's papacy come to an end. On one of his other visits to the United States, the pope condemned an "[American] culture that seeks to declare entire groups of human beings... to be outside the boundaries of legal protection." That's rich coming from the same man who ordered bishops in the United States to oppose civil-rights laws that protect gays and lesbians (including hate-crime laws), leaving us "outside the boundaries of legal protection." In 2003, a Vatican screed condemned not only gay marriage, but also adoptions by gay and lesbian couples. Allowing gays and lesbians to adopt children, the Vatican said, "would actually mean doing violence to these children." (Hmm. Violence against children... perhaps we should defer to the Catholic Church's expertise on that subject?) And two days before my boyfriend and I celebrated our 10th anniversary in February, the pope rose from his deathbed just long enough describe gay marriage as part of an "ideology of evil." Gee, J.P., you shouldn't have.

What's maddening about this pope's signature gay-bashing is this: When the pope—the dead one, the next one, the one after that—says something stupid about homosexuality, straight Americans take it to heart. The church's efforts have helped defeat gay-rights bills, led to the omission of gays and lesbians from hate-crime statutes, and helped to pass anti-gay-marriage amendments. But when a pope says something stupid about heterosexuality, straight Americans go deaf. And this pope had plenty to say about heterosexual sex—no contraceptives, no premarital sex, no blowjobs, no jerkin' off, no divorce, no remarriage, no artificial insemination, no blowjobs, no three-ways, no swinging, no blowjobs, no anal. Did I mention no blowjobs? John Paul II had a longer list of "no's" for straight people than he did for gay people. But when he tried to meddle in the private lives of straights, the same people who deferred to his delicate sensibilities where my rights were concerned suddenly blew the old asshole off. Gay blowjobs are expendable, it seems; straight ones are sacred.

So forgive me if I can't get behind the orgy of cheap and easy piety that's greeted the death of this pope. Watching the talking twats on CNN pay their respects to this "universally beloved man of God" (how many of them have had premarital sex, I wonder?), to say nothing of the suddenly so-reverent assholes on Fox News (Bill O'Reilly didn't have many nice things to say about the pope when he opposed the invasion of Iraq), is making me want to throw a bottle of lube through a stained-glass window.

Yeah, yeah: I'm sorry the old bastard's dead, I'm sorry the old bastard suffered. But I'm not so sorry that I won't stoop to working John Paul II into a column about zombie fetishism. I don't want to be a total asshole, however, so I'll close this week's column with a subject John Paul II approved of mightily: male chastity.


04-14-2005, 02:43 PM
Assuming that you are sincere in wanting to understand what is going on and not just trying to be critical, I will try to explain. It is hard to tell what you want since in one place you use the phrase "I draw the line" (i.e. being critical) and another place in the same post you use the phrase " part of Christianity that I TRULY don't understand" (i.e. you are seeking an understanding). I will be charitable and assume you are seeking understanding.

However, I draw the line at the mention of his personal suffering, as if it were some sort of icon. That is exactly what the pope's suffering was to many of us Christions. An icon is a symbol that we can "look through" to see the real thing (if their are any Eastern Orthodox among us, they can explain it better than I). The pope's public and dignified suffering was an icon into the sufferings of Christ.

Christ's suffering and death has such an impact on us not because other humans have not suffered more, but because he is GOD and willingly suffered this indignity for us.

[ 04-14-2005, 05:25 PM: Message edited by: peb ]

04-14-2005, 04:25 PM
The Pope is not an icon because he suffered. He is an icon because he suffered publicly. In an age where aging and death are things to be denied and hidden, he paraded his decrepitude before the cameras, and showed that it looks a lot better than plastic surgery. By flaunting his age and decay, he defeated it.

04-14-2005, 04:27 PM
Originally posted by George.:
The Pope is not an icon because he suffered. He is an icon because he suffered publicly. In an age where aging and death are things to be denied and hidden, he paraded his decrepitude before the cameras, and showed that it looks a lot better than plastic surgery. By flaunting his age and decay, he defeated it.Very rarely do I agree with an entire post of yours, but with this one I do. Very well said.

[ 04-14-2005, 06:19 PM: Message edited by: peb ]

km gresham
04-15-2005, 07:19 AM
Yes. Well said.