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It’s important for Christians, especially Catholics, to remember that as much as we may be in agreement with other people on certain issues, that doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily on our side when it comes to faith and religion. This hit me again yesterday with SayUncle’s post (and Sebastian’s agreement with it) about the Pope’s Christmas Message, criticizing Benedict for apparently living in luxury while he tells the rest of the world to watch out for the poor. Specifically:

He says don’t be selfish and help those who live in places where the basics needed for survival are missing. He said this from an extravagant mantle, on a gold throne with jewels, wearing a priceless gold cross, and some expensive clothes.

Good message there, chief.

Let me offer a rephrase: “Don’t be selfish, and help those how live in places where the basics needed for survival are missing. Benedict, who had begged his predecessor to be able to retire from the College of Cardinals so he could write books, wore borrowed clothes in a house (including furniture and decorations) that isn’t his.”

The commenters at SayUncle’s site do a good job of taking him to task, although I think ultimately they miss the main point. Yes, the Catholic Church does more (measurable) good than any other organization, and has been doing so for the past 2000 years. That’s good, but it still falls into a problem when the Lesson of the Widow’s Mite is considered: even acknowledging all the good the Catholic Church does, it has a lot of advantages and so it’s hard to definitively pin down whether they objectively do enough. Another comment notes the message of “The Shoes of the Fisherman” and how stripping the Church of its wealth won’t work, but this is also inadequate: just because we may not succeed isn’t a legitimate reason, by itself, not to try.

I think that the important point is that the riches of the Church exist for a reason: they help to show heaven to the people. To urbane society this seems laughable (although that’s delusional), but to normal people it doesn’t. It serves the same purpose as the stained glass windows, high cathedral arches, and vivid iconography in a church: to display the Gospel and who God is. When foreign dignitaries visit an American embassy, do they expect to see the staff lounging around in t-shirts, halter tops, and board shorts? Of course not; the embassy staff represents a superpower nation and they dress professionally. Do we expect the Queen of England (who, incidentally, is not the “spiritual head” of anything) to forgo her coronation as being too ostentatious? Of course not; she represents the British (and Commonwealth) people and her coronation has to do with the position, not the person. The Pope is similar: his position is that of steward for the resurrected and glorious Christ. That he looks splendid in his official clothes is utterly appropriate. That he be surrounded by pious beauty is also utterly appropriate. Would his detractors have him surrounded by slide projectors and white sheets? Well, probably; this logic would also say that they should get the cheapest projectors they can find that still display recognizable images, rather than getting expensive ones that will last and will display vivid images. The thing is, projections aren’t real. They’ll do when you don’t have anything else, but once you do you stick with that. The Church is real, as the Body of Christ here on Earth. At the same time, it is also a representation of heaven, and so it must do the best that it can.

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2 Comments

  1. Well said, sir. Well said.

    • Egregious Charles
    • Posted December 30, 2008 at 3:32 am
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    Indeed, well put. And that’s coming from a nondenominational Evangelical whose church has usually met school auditoriums or other cheap, ad-hoc environments.


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] More from Wolfwood here.  I was incorrect as to the title of Queen Elizabeth within the Church of England. […]

  2. By SayUncle » Politics and religion on 26 Dec 2008 at 6:06 pm

    […] Wolfwood says Know Your Allies. Ya know, I’m not all anti-religious or anything. And as I’ve said before, I got no […]

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