King, Queen, or Pope for a Day is a common fantasy. Royalty and popes are seen as having absolute power to issue decrees. Turning those decrees into reality is a different story. (More)
Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement of his resignation prompted a round of Pope for a Day fantasies by some of my Roman Catholic friends. The idea of being able to pull the church into the 21st century in one day apparently has a lot of appeal. The list was stunning: married priests, the ordination of women, reproductive rights for all, LGBT equality, inclusion in all the rituals of the church, stopping and punishing sexual abuse by priests, feeding the poor, health care for all, dealing with climate change to protect the earth … well, it was an ambitious progressive agenda.
The list is easy for progressives to make. Turning it into a political reality is hard work. Movements like civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT equality have been working for decades or centuries and will take years or decades more to finish their agendas. The greenhouse effect has been known about since the early 19th century.
The Catholic Church has ways of shutting down activists and thwarting change. For the hierarchy, resistance to change seems to be a feature and not a bug. In the age of more and faster change, they have dropped out. Some movements have sit-ins for change but the Catholic Church is sitting out change. And while some kings and queens have been more willing to change with their subjects, or even pushed for change, they too often met institutional resistance.
I love the fantasy of Queen or King or Pope for a Day. It gives each of us the opportunity to exercise those muscles of the heart and mind that allow us to create stunning visions of how the world could be. In those visions are our dreams of the future we seek to live in. Painting word pictures of our best tomorrows can help us through the stuff we must do today to get there. Sharing our dreams can awaken the dreamer in each other.
The activism that turns those dreams into reality involves a lot of grunt work: meetings, training, fundraising, making phone calls, knocking on doors, writing letters, data entry, and the like. It isn’t very glamorous. Good activists are good at saying thank you precisely because they know how thankless the jobs often seem. The truth is that making change is very hard.
So is protecting the changes we’ve already made. I am 66. The idea that a panel of men including some Catholic bishops would be convened to discuss taking away birth control was not something I expected in 2012. I got the two steps forward part but forgot the one step back part.
So while the media sort through the pope’s resignation, I say let’s all play King or Queen or Pope for a Day. Let’s share our best dreams of the world we are working so hard to create. We need those dreams to motivate ourselves for the grunt work of real activism.
Oh and when it happens, what would the first female pope be called?