Thursday, April 21, 2005

Why stay?

A new friend from Old Europe, whom we'll call Swiss Watch, sends this:

Obviously, I have to agree with you that the election of Ratzinger is a disaster--for the church and way beyond.

Here is what I, as an outsider, cannot understand: Why don't you just leave the church and become Methodist? (Most of the teaching is quite similar, but there is no pope...) In my home country of Switzerland there is a church that calls itself "Old Catholic" or "Christ Catholic" that split from the Roman church after the First Vatican Council, protesting the infallibility doctrine. It has never had a great geographic reach, but it is an obvious alternative for Hans Küng (to whom the vast majority of Swiss have been very sympathetic), yet he never chose to take it. (The church is also present in Southern Germany, where he is a professor.)

What is it about the Catholic Church that makes it so hard for people to leave it?

Hmmm...Any takers on this one? Your blogstress, rosary gripped in hand, would love to hear from her readers. ("E-mail Addie" button on upper left of this site.)

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The pride of Bavaria

A day has passed since election of the Enforcer to the papacy, and your blogstress has calmed down sufficiently to do a bit of writing on the subject for The American Prospect Web site that should explain her adverse reaction to the naming of this particular pope. (And did he have to be from Bavaria, of all places?)

Last night, on MSNBC, Carl Bernstein suggested that, as pope, Ratzinger might surprise us; he might not be all that bad. Carl, from your mouth to God's ears. One presumes Carl is speaking in relative terms, despite Ratzinger's condemnation of moral relativism just the other day. (Your cybertrix does concede, however, that Mr. Bernstein tends to be right more often than not--one of his many maddening traits.)

BERNSTEIN: I think that, one, that he may be open-minded on some questions that some of the members of the panel might be holier than the pope about.

I think...that Supreme Court justices, kings, queens, and popes, people who get jobs for life, sometimes turn around and surprise you. I think this pope... might well make some gestures. I do not think he is going to change, as I said, the perennial theology. But I am not at all sure that his way of addressing his papacy is going to be as polarizing some of the members of the panel...[the other guests on the April 19th edition of "Scarborough Country," who included Pat Buchanan]

Your Web wench, on the other hand, suspects that the cardinals rushed through balloting in order to get it overwith before the Holy Spirit could do a fly-by. What else could explain such a quick decision, and this result?

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005


If one is seeking further evidence that the eschaton is about to be immanatized, one need look no further than the election of Cardinal Jozef Ratzinger to the papacy. The entire College of Cardinals has much to account for with the election of this zealot, this disdainer of women, hater of homosexuals, enthusiastic enforcer of the most authoritarian aspects of church doctrine with apparent disregard for the words of Jesus of Nazareth: "Judge not lest ye be judged."

For years, Ratzinger served as JPII's attack dog, the guy threatening to throw nuns out of their convents for having had the courage to speak their minds; the guy insisting that theologians who took issue with the Vatican's interpretation of God's word lose their jobs; the guy who saw to it that an American bishop who dared to minister to gay people was publicly humiliated.

Your cybertrix is truly shaken by this. She wasn't expecting Gandhi, but she never truly believed that the church would anoint Torquemada's heir apparent.

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White smoke

Your blogstress waits with bated breath to hear the name of the pope who has just been elected at the conclave. She's nearly certain it can't be the dreaded Ratzinger, since his name was so heavily floated--usually a sign of doom for a papal candidate. Let's all stay tuned, shall we?

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

The passing of an era

It is with sadness that your blogstress notes the passing of Andrea Dworkin, the great feminist writer, even if she and Ms. Dworkin found themselves on opposite sides of a gigantic row in the feminist movement. Though Ms. Dworkin would surely not have been amused by your cybertrix's sense of style, she had ferocity and talent enough to warrant respect. In fact, your écrivaine believes Dworkin to be one of the best American writers of her generation, but, alas, she will no doubt be remembered more for her role in stoking the porn wars of the 1980s than for her greater gifts.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Smited by the blogging gods

It's not that your blogstress doesn't love you--no, no, no! Alas, your cybertrix's publishing tool,, has been struggling to do its job lately. Yesterday, for instance, the system was virtually shut down.

So do bear with, dear reader, and perhaps let the Google people (who own, the service that fuels more blogs than anybody else) know that you are not amused when they create such a rift in the time-space continuum of the blogosphere.

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Monday, April 04, 2005

Love & responsibility

Herewith the promised passage from Karol Wojtyla's book, Love and Responsibility, that Carl Bernstein quoted on MSNBC last Saturday:

If a woman does not obtain natural gratification from the sexual act there is a danger that her experience of it will be qualitatively inferior, will not involve her fully as a person..

And that's only the part appropriate for a family cable channel. For the full passage, as quoted in His Holiness: John Paul II and the Hidden History of Our Time, the 1996 book by Bernstein and Marco Politi, click here.

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Sunday, April 03, 2005

More on the pope and American Catholics

Before the birth of the blog, your blogstress had the opportunity to chronicle the impact of Pope John Paul II's policy and personality on American Catholicism. To peruse the AddieStan archives for those pieces on the subject that have found their way to the Web, click here.

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Saturday, April 02, 2005

A death in the family

It has at last come to pass that Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II, has gone to meet his Maker, and your blogstress is very sad.

How can that be, you may ask, that a feminist of mutable sexual orientation should feel such sadness at the passing of a leader who rejected the full empowerment of women and condemned the lives of gay people.

To this, your écrivaine can only say that the beliefs of her own grandfather matched those of the pope's, and she still felt tremendous grief when he passed on. She grieved not only the loss of her grandpa, but the loss of a charming raconteur, gifted gardener, avid reader and lover of all things beautiful.

John Paul was, without a doubt, a stubborn traditionalist in matters of church doctrine, including that which has caused grave harm to members of his flock. But that was not all he was. Through the force of his own will, he hastened the demise of Communism, which was a very good thing. In the dizzying whirlwind of his travels, he demonstrated the adage that a good king serves his people.

This writer, however, does find herself troubled by all the talk of making him a saint, for it was in his humanity, by definition a state of imperfection, that the man's complexity and magnificence made itself evident. Make John Paul II a saint, and we reduce him to something simple but distant from us.

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The pope and women

On MSNBC last night, Carl Bernstein read a remarkable passage from Karol Wojtyla's early writings as a church philosopher on matters of sexuality. In this particular treatise, the philosopher seemed to say that, in a sexual encounter with her spouse, it is important that the woman be brought to orgasm. How strange, especially given John Paul II's intractability on the limited role of women in the church.

While covering the pope's 1987 U.S. tour, your blogstress sought official word on the Holy Father's understanding of the female condition. This she got from the cardinal archbishop of Boston, who retired in infamy for having covered up the scandal of several predatory priests in his archdiocese.

During the Pope's tour, I caught up with Archbishop Bernard Cardinal Law, the prelate often described as "the Pope's man" by the press, the day after the Pontiff had told the bishops that God does not want women priests. Cardinal Law was in the front row of the first-class section of Shepherd II, one of two L-1011s that served as papal press planes. I introduced myself as a reporter for Ms. and asked him for comment on the Pop's remarks. He was most obliging and gracious, and as I eased into the seat next to his, he leaned toward me as if he was taking me into his confidence.

"There are two principles that need to be borne in mind," Cardinal Law told me, looking me square in the eye. "First, the fundamental equality of all persons. Secondly, the specific equality...of feminine humanity. He didn't say [this] but I think this is what the Holy Father meant: that the price of that equality must not come at the expense of what it means to be feminine."

"And what would you say that was?" I asked. "How would you define that?"

"I don't know," he replied. "That's something that needs to be understood and experienced more deeply."

Having got the standard separate-but-equal Vatican response, I thanked him for his time. But as I stood up, he asked me what I had felt while following the Pope. I was rather surprised by the question.

Well, I admitted, I was often quite moved by the pageantry and, yes, my heartbeat did quicken at the sight of the Pope. "but often I was angry," I said, "especially about the ordination issue."

"Oh, I know, I understand," he said, showing all outward signs of compassion. "It must be very hard for you." That is why it is so important for us to define the feminine, he contended.


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What a pope does

Sometimes a conversation with a person of another generation will blast one into place where one may a view things from a broader perspective. Last night, your blogstress conversed with a young Protestant friend who found herself exasperated by the media's vigil over Pope John Paul II's final hours (or perhaps days). Everybody dies, she said. Why all the fuss?

When your cybertrix launched into a litany of the pope's more impressive attributes--his charisma, his travels, his ferocity--the friend said, "But isn't that just what a pope does? Doesn't that charisma stem from the office itself?"

Suddenly your cybertrix realized that her friend had been born in the year that John Paul took office. She had never known another pope.

No, your Webwench explained, before JPII, we had an introverted, hollow-eyed pontiff whom we knew only as a face, not a personality. Sure, Pope Paul VI had broken the travel barrier, being the first pope to visit the U.S. and, yes, the people had lined the route of his motorcade through Manhattan. But that was just because they had never seen a pope on American soil before.

It wasn't until that conversation that your net-tête truly understood just how thoroughly Karol Wojtyla had reinvented the papacy.

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Here's Rhoderick of The Turnspit Daily on the Pope's next journey:

When I die, there will be no adoring throngs in St. Peter's sqaure, no cathedral bells, no babbling pundits or tickers will sadly announce my demise. Unlike he, I will leave unpaid bills, some unholy laundry, and maybe a few traces of porn still on my computer hard drive (unwanted, I swear). The Pope has had a long and fulfilling life. He's done more, seen more, and experienced more than most of us ever have or will. I don't pity him the least bit. This is not the end of Pope John Paul II... no, for him, this is just the beginning of his immortality. His name will be plopped down last in a long list of Pontiffs and bound tightly between the leather covers of important books in important libraries. His name will be known for centuries to come, or as long as our species shall last, Amen.

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Friday, April 01, 2005

A remarkable, if maddening, leader

As your blogstress writes this, there is disagreement among the media as to whether or not Pope John Paul II is still alive. Even if rumors of his death are premature, no one appears to expect the pontiff to live to see tomorrow.

For this writer, John Paul II has been a frustrating character--one of such great talents and obvious spirituality, yet such wrong-headed ideas with regard to the full humanity of women and the moral health of non-heterosexuals.

When Karol Wojtyla ascended the papal throne, there was much excitement in the Stan family, some of whose ancestors arrived in the New World from Poland at the turn of the last century. But it wasn't just the common motherland that thrilled us: it was the man himself, who so obviously represented a departure from the tormented, vacillating leadership of Pope Paul (whose immediate successor, John Paul I, lasted all of 33 days in office before dying).

Wojtyla was a poet, an actor and an athlete. When your reporter covered the pope's 1987 U.S. tour for The Nation, she felt the hair on her arms raise in excitement as she chased the popemobile around a muddy field in Florida. His charisma and spirituality was palpable. Surely, such a man of the world held the prospect of true reform in his hands.

But it was not to be. If anything, the stubborn, traditionalist dogma of John Paul II assured the disintegration of his church. Even so, the crucial role he played in the demise of the Soviet Union guarantees his place in history as a great world leader, if not the best at maintaining the relevance of the church he led. And his outreach to those of other religions, especially his delicate dance with Jewish leaders, is truly revolutionary. Alas, it may not be enough to save Mother Church.

As history unfolds, it will reveal Pope Paul VI, who succeeded John XXIII, the great reformer, as the one who squandered a great opportunity to save the church at the conclusion of Vatican II--reportedly at the urging of the Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla. It was Paul who rejected the recommendation of the lay commission convened by John XIII that birth control be deemed acceptable for practicing Catholics. This layperson asserts that had Vatican II concluded with the Latin Mass in tact and birth control removed from the list of mortal sins, the church would be healthy today--even with proscriptions on abortion, homosexuality and women clerics.

Your écrivaine laments her lack of optimism for the future of the church of which she remains a member in questionable standing. In his long tenure, John Paul II was able to craft the College of Cardinals, the body that will elect the next pope, in his own image. Of the 117 cardinals under the age of 80 who will convene for the conclave, John Paul appointed 100. It's hard to imagine how the church avoids anointing another hard-liner as its first 21st-century leader. How sad for the world, which so cries for spiritual nourishment in a confusing, new time.

Perhaps, though, there will be deliverance. Divine intervention could, after all, grant us a pope with the heart of John XXIII and the gifts of John Paul II.


Read more from Addie's papal archive

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