A high tide of conventional analysis of Pope Francis -- is he conservative or progressive, a reformer in fact or a pastor at heart -- misses the central significance of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation and Pope Francis' election. They constitute one event whose meaning cries out for our attention but is drowned out by the re-enactment in our time of the myth of Babel, in which Yahweh turned the talk of the self-important tower builders (TV towers today) into babble.
Bulletins from the Human Side
To the media, reduced to "Dancing with the Stars" after the Super Bowl and the Oscars until re-entering Eden as the Masters Golf Tournament blooms again, the gods have suddenly delivered a gift seemingly from heaven, a surprise papal resignation and a conclave to elect a new pope.
There will be a new pope by St. Patrick's Day, but the timing was so good for the media that you would think that, for his resignation, Pope Benedict XVI had the same reporter adviser who told Pancho Villa to postpone his revolution until after the World Series.
A major eastern newspaper says Cardinal Roger Mahony, retired archbishop of Los Angeles, is lucky not to be in jail after recently released archdiocesan documents were cited as evidence that he covered up many priests accused of sexually abusing those in their care, avoided reporting them to the police, and allowed them, after treatment and admonishment, to return quasi-purified to work as priests again.
Pope Benedict XVI's resignation is big on buzz but is not the stunning surprise claimed by many pundits. It is rather a further example of the German theology professor's style that informed his years as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, his term as pope, and the formation of his legacy to the church.
Bulletins from the Human Side: It's difficult to imagine that Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez knew nothing about sexual abuse by priests.
Bulletins from the Human Side: A rising generation of theological scholars, most of whom are lay, will not accept condemnations such as that now imposed on Fr. Tony Flannery.
Bulletins from the Human Side: In a letter, one cardinal implies that priests and seminarians can become their own grandfathers. There's a song for that.
Bulletins from the Human Side: The cause of the Newtown shooting seems beyond those who say the answer was the availability of guns.
Bulletins from the Human Side: What can we say or give these people rubbed so raw that even our well-meaning embraces may only intensify their pain?
That noise you hear coming from the Vatican, according to Robert Mickens, one of the most experienced and trustworthy observers of the church, arises not from the clang of cell doors on papal butlers taking one for the system, but from the “implosion” of the system itself. Mickens, former editor of the London-based Tablet, tells us that, we are witnessing “the collapse of an entire system, structure, ethos, and culture.”