Benedict XVI Meets Bush In Realignment of Church and State

June 13, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI, head of the Roman Catholic church, granted a special audience to U.S. President Bush on Vatican state grounds earlier today. This is their second official meeting in exactly three months. Photos of the seemingly casual encounter unambiguously articulate a new alignment and alliance between the two powerful leaders. Both men walk (or sit) side by side — as amiable colleagues, placing Western religion and Western politics on equal, albeit very precarious, footing.

bushpopeOn the surface, the two men appear diametrically opposed. Joseph Ratzinger consciously adapted his papal name from Benedict XV, known as the “peace pope” during World War I. While George W. Bush simply inherited an ancestral name then fell into (some say stole) a legacy of war.

So why the love fest?

We can only speculate. Both are heads of institutions whose global dominance and relevance are currently on the wane. Future growth and stability are dependent on cultures outside their historic territories. Do they simply need each other to survive into the next century?

The more important question for me is why Benedict XVI has positioned himself (and therefore his god, his church) so squarely on the side of a president who continues to wage a profoundly unjust war.

There are at least three answers — all of which, of course, just lead to more questions:

1. The pope condones war. Has Benedict XVI chosen to walk in the footsteps, NOT of Benedict XV, but of one of Benedict XV’s proteges: Pius XII, who was crowned pope on March 12, 1939, the eve of Adolf Hitler’s march into Prague? (Controversy over Pius’ papacy continues today because of his refusal to condemn the Nazi regime and his silence in face of the Jewish holocaust.)

2. The pope rejects war. Perhaps these meetings are subtle attempts to sway Bush from staying the course of war. The Vatican’s official line, of course, is that Benedict XVI rejects the war and is “skeptical of politics without reference to the Gospel.”

3. The pope rejects war but has to turn a blind eye in order to win his church’s larger battle — converting the entire world over to Christianity. In other words: the elimination of all other religions, including the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism and Islam.

It’s a new world. All roads no longer lead to Rome. Strangely, they now all lead to the Middle East.

Whichever the answer (and there are admittedly many more), both Benedict and Bush seem to be ideal counterparts. Not two men from different spheres, but two halves of a single neoconservative coin.

During his visit, Bush reportedly told Benedict: “This is fantastic up here… Thank you so much for showing me this.” The view of the gods must be spectacular. Caution: thunderbolts ahead.

Photo from Getty Images, as published in NYT’s lede story this morning.
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Obama Forsakes His Controversial Church Of Twenty Years

May 31, 2008

barack

Saturday evening news headlines are always telling. Particularly because fewer people are watching. So, what a non-surprise that media-savvy presidential hopeful Barack Obama picked a Saturday evening to quit his own church, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. NYT reports that he will be explaining this latest denunciation tonight in South Dakota.

The 47-year-old junior senator from Illinois has been a member of Trinity’s congregation for about two decades — that’s almost half his life. It’s also the church where he and wife Michelle were married, and his two daughters were baptized. Like his public denunciation last month of Trinity’s pastor and his longtime mentor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. (from whom Obama adopted the phrase, “The Audacity of Hope”), this could not possibly have been an easy decision. Is it the right one?

While the church has certainly been a lightning rod for controversy during Obama’s campaign, what does quitting it accomplish?

In stark contrast to Bush’s “stay the course”, Obama’s openness to “change” has won an unexpected show of support over the past few months. But these public denunciations of longtime friends or we-weren’t-really-friends, are beginning to turn this pro-change stance into a flip-flop dance (remember Kerry?) What happened to sticking by your people? Working with your people (one of them being, your longtime pastor) to CHANGE their minds? What does it mean to quit your church, of all things? (And I’m not even religious.)

Disappointing news indeed. Obama certainly has the gift of oratory. He’s going to need it in bundles and busloads to explain this one.

If he can quit his pastor and church of twenty years just like that because he disagrees with what they’re preaching (apparently different from what they’d been saying before he entered the race), how fast till he drops YOU, a total stranger? What if we say we don’t agree with his definition of “change”? Will he quit you and me too?

Stop the bus, I want to get off.


Ratzinger in America: What His Stars Say

April 14, 2008

ratzingerJoseph Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict XVI, head of the Vatican State and 265th Holy Father to Roman Catholics around the world, is headed for America this week. His itinerary begins on 4/15-17 in Washington DC and ends with 3 days in NYC (there goes the weekend…) These are challenging times for his church (and the rest of us who won’t be saved), and the visit (expertly branded as an “apostolic journey”) is historic: This is the neoconservative, Gucci-sunglassed, Prada-slippered leader’s first visit to America. It is only the second time in history that a pope will visit the White House, the first time a pope will celebrate his birthday with an American President, and the third time a pope will hang out in the Big Apple. He is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly and will visit the World Trade Center site. He will be carrying the pastoral staff of Pope Pius IX, as he makes a much-needed case for peace, love, and tolerance, while he continues to exclude women, same-sex partners, and followers of other faiths, cultures, and fashions from peace, love, and tolerance. This is an impossible proposition.

Born on April 16, 1927 and declared pope on April 19, 2005, Ratzinger could be headed towards another life-changing April. So we thought we’d preempt the situation and look to the stars for clues. For the astrologically-inclined, here’s a screenshot of his natal chart from Astrology Weekly.

And a horoscope for Ratzinger on his birthday, from our favorite astrology site astro.com:

A fleeting depression

Weak, transient effect: This influence can indicate a period of fleeting depression. This morning you are inclined to feel lonely and out of touch with others. Sometimes you have a pronounced sense that no one loves you, whether or not it is true. It is very important to realize that your moods and sensations under this influence often do not reflect reality, even though they seem to. One area where you can have real trouble is in relationships. You will find it unusually difficult to relate emotionally to another person during this time. Either you are caught up in internal negativism, or you feel so cold and insensitive that you do not register signals from other people very well. This in turn leads to failures of communication and genuine misunderstandings. Obviously this is not a good time to become involved in an emotionally delicate situation.

Considering Ratzinger will be spending his birthday morning with Bush, this TOTALLY makes sense.