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Morning Feature – King, Queen, or Pope for a Day

February 12, 2013

Morning Feature

Morning Feature – King, Queen, or Pope for a Day

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?

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15 Responses to “Morning Feature – King, Queen, or Pope for a Day”

  1. NCrissieB Says:

    Thank you for this, addisnana. I agree that we activists need to take time to dream before we get on with the busy-work of activism. But before I launch into my Pope for a Day dream …

    … A female pope might be commonly addressed as Sanctus Matris (Latin for “Holy Mother”) although I suspect people would more often use Madre (Italian for “Mother”). The title of Pontifex Maximus (Latin for “Greatest Bridge Builder”) would likely be changed to Pontifex Maxima (the feminine form), or perhaps Pontifex Maximum (gender neutral).

    Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  2. winterbanyan Says:

    I love this, addisanana. One of the best things we can do is dream, and share our dreams of a better world. This is beautiful.

    I vote for the first female pope being called Pontifex Maxima, Mater Maria Magdalena. After all, Mary Magdalene was recognized as the “Apostle to the Apostles” and only a certain Pope Gregory ever decided she must have been a prostitute. In all likelihood, she preached too.

    But preaching was denied to women after the second century. Another big mistake by that hidebound hierarchy IMO. So yes, I’ll dream. :)

    I’d also like to point out that down in the pews Catholic Social Doctrine has taken deeper root than it evidently has in Rome or among the Bishopric. Things like social and economic justice, helping the poor, no war, tolerance, love of neighbor… The church needs to catch up and stop listening to the right wing elements. If they ever do, they might find churches filling up again, instead of draining as they are now.

    • addisnana Says:

      The really fun part about dreams is that everyone has them. Nothing like a “dream break” to energize the spirits of phone bankers. I remember one woman who took off her head phones after a bad call and said, “Somebody please remind me just why I am doing this.” In an unplanned move, several people shared their reasons (dreams) and all of us were energized.

      (We did NOT call this Pope for a Day for obvious reasons.)

  3. NCrissieB Says:

    If I were Pope for a Day, I would declare ex cathedra that – as Mary Magdalene was chosen by God to be Apostle to the Apostles – the longstanding Church law limiting ordination to men is in error. I would then perform the Sacrament of Holy Orders (ordination) for all qualified women who wished to serve as priests. I would invite all such women to St. Peters and spend the entire day on that ceremony. (Yes, I recognize that if I were Pope for a Day, someone must already have done this. Details, details!)

    In Catholic doctrine, the Sacrament of Holy Orders is indelible, meaning it cannot be undone. Once ordained, the women would still be priests … no matter what my successor thought about it.

    And once women began serving as priests and advancing into the Catholic hierarchy … the rest of the progressive changes you described would be much more likely to happen.

    Good morning! ::hugggggs::

    • addisnana Says:

      I’d buy a ticket to watch you as Pope for a Day. :grin: Indelibility is interesting to me as a non-Catholic. My mind has gone into the weeds of infallibility versus indelibility. Surely some theologians have pondered this quite thoroughly.

      I believe that women in positions of power along side men in positions of power change the way power is used and the dreams of what is possible. The same belief system says that multi-racial representation does the same thing.

      My dreams have diversity as a giant plus and “the other” as someone to be welcomed and not feared.

      • NCrissieB Says:

        The Catholic doctrine of ordinal indelibility means that once ordained a priest remains a priest for life. While priests can leave active service, their ordinations do not expire. A ‘former’ priest can still perform any priestly sacrament including baptism, absolution, communion, marriage, and anointing of the sick – formerly known as last rites – and Catholics believe those sacraments would still have full spiritual effect.

        Indeed ‘former’ priests are expected to perform baptism and/or anointing of the sick in extremis, that is, if the person seeking the sacrament is near death and there is no time to contact an active priest.

        The doctrine of papal infallibility is something else entirely. :)

        Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  4. Jim W Says:

    I would call Vatican III. It was 94 years between I and II. Half the length of time should be enough in this fast paced world.

  5. addisnana Says:

    I think many in the pews and some who used to be there would be cheering for Vatican III. Thanks Jim.

  6. winterbanyan Says:

    If I were Pope for a day, I doubt I could achieve everything I’d want to achieve. Yes to ordination of women (a pope actually doesn’t have to be ordained, merely elected) but I’d take us back to the basics of the gospel of love. Wouldn’t that rattle the bars?

  7. LI Mike Says:

    Pope for a day. Hmmm. After eliminating the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith what would come next? I remember sitting in Sr Mary Phillipa’s religion class and her emphasizing the notion of humility and referencing biblical passages about the need to be humble before the lord.

    I would say the church needs a little dash of humility. Maybe then it can better reflect on the pain and suffering it has caused thousands of innocents.

    I would make a speech announcing the promulgation of a papal bull to call for the convocation of Cardinals, Bishops, etc, etc. to begin the process of allowing women to serve the church in a higher capacity, eventually leading to any capacity that their talents could take them.

    • addisnana Says:

      I’d increase the dose of humility from a dash to total immersion. I’d ask that everyone, me included get regular dunkings.

      I can remember being told as a middle-schooler that women could not be Methodist ministers. Someone suggested I consider being a music minister. Clearly this person was not aware of my total lack of ability to sing a song in the same key throughout even one verse. :roll:

      I look at my grandkids and realize the only President they have known so far is Obama. If there was a black pope imagine how their ideas of how the world works will be different from what I grew up with. Then add women to the mix and we’d have some progress.

  8. addisnana Says:

    I am off on an airport run. Back soon.