(among other things)
To our dear separated brothers and sisters, nothing comes across as more counterintuitive to the Christian religion than the Pope. The great german theologian, Karl Adam, gestured at this notion — that the Pope is the real hanging chad of ecumenical dialog — at the end of his diamond-of-a-book, The Roots of the Reformation. He is right.
Protestantism simply cannot comprehend the Pope. Of course, that does not mean that the concept of the papacy does not loom large in their theology. I’ve argued elsewhere that it is partly a matter of drinking too much of the home-made papal brew. We might also blame the way myth works: first the reality, then the lore, then the meme that just won’t go away. So it is with the Pope, and tails, and talisman and the like. For you know, of course, that the pope is the anti-Christ, eats children, and owns the world.
I mean, what’s not to like?
So it is no wonder that there are many out there who simply cannot shake the ghosts out of their schismatic motherboards. Which is why I would like to take this moment to explain why Catholics cry, sing, dance, and holler upon seeing — in this episode — a small, bavarian, grey haired man. Youth, old women, statesmen, and small children, gathered in the streets just to get a glimpse of “Papa”. This is really weird, right? I mean, it is giving me the Holy Ghost bujeebers.
Despite our separated sistas inclinations, and far from idolatry, our displays of affection for the Pope can best be understood in two ways: the prophetic and the familial.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
As pastor of the Universal Church, the Pope is the manifestation of our unity. He is not the Church per se, we are the Church. Yet, we (plural) are one (singular). So, if the Church is God’s sacramental presence in the world, the Pope is the lighthouse of the body. He is like the grandfather at the family reunion. Everyone is gathered around him, not because he is the most important, but because none of it would be important without him. Without the old man, all we would have is the people we came with. Of course, this is no theological defense of the papacy. Just google-it to find one of those. Instead, I want my fair inquirer to understand what we mean by our affection. El papa romano means we are family — which ultimately means, we are one.
Pop a cork!
But not so fast, because ultimately there is a better reason for our joy, tears, and fog horns. Besides the symbol of our familial bond, the Pope is a symbol of our Savior’s power. We confess that He rose again — we believe the words of the eye witnesses. But, do we? Do we really believe that He rose?
I do. And one big, fat, awesomely incredible reason is that the Pope is here. That’s right. The man with the tail, who owns the world, and has a secret pact with Lloyd’s of London is a type of proof that Jesus is alive. Let me explain.
If the Protestants are to have their story right, there is no good reason there is still a Pope. The Reformation did not promise just the best ideas, but the best religion. The Pope was the anti-Christ, is the anti-Christ, and the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will have none of it. Or so goes the storyline. That is the storyline, right? The pope is dead, the pope is dead, the wicked witc…, uh, yeah, um, pope is dead.
(excuse me, excuse me)
And in my book, there is really no good explanation for why we still have a Pope, other than the fact that Jesus is alive, He is working in His Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against Her. Come on, we have had bad popes. Really, like the kind of you-ain’t-gonna-make-it-past-this-one bad popes. So, either the cat has 28 lives or something is up.
We think something is up.